BLOG 2011 Q3
China Overtakes Euro
The Chinese renminbi
was a more popular currency for company bond
sales than the euro for the first time in 2011
Q3. Deutsche Bank senior banker Hakan Wohlin:
"It's an extremely positive development for
global capital markets."
The eurozone crisis is a
"baptism of fire for a whole generation" that
requires a central economic government for the
eurozone, says European Commission head José
Manuel Barroso. In his annual State of the Union
address to the European Parliament, Barroso
proposed the issue of eurobonds that would
effectively pool the debt of Greece and other
weak member states. He also called for a tax on
international financial transactions. Barroso:
"The pace of our joint endeavor cannot be
dictated by the slowest. A member state has the
right not to move. But not the right to block
the moves of others."
In Our Own Words:
Thoughts From Afghanistan
War Museum North
A Palestinian State
The Palestinian effort
at the United Nations is going to get them
nowhere. It will make the Israelis feel that the
Palestinians have gone in a unilateral direction
when the only viable strategy is a bilateral
one. Palestinians may regard it as deeply
unfair, but the only way they’re going to get a
Palestinian state is to engage directly with the
Israelis. And they need to take control of Gaza.
The markets have
decided we are heading for a car crash. All the
Group of Seven countries have been following
policies that haven't worked, and quite clearly
are not going to work. The banks are every bit
as bust as they were four years ago. Greece is
just the front-end of the bumper on a car that
is heading for a wall — the rest of the pile-up
is still to come.
2011 September 30
Ig Nobel Awards 2011
Medicine — Mirjam Tuk and Luk
Warlope for work published in Psychological Science investigating the effect
of a need to urinate on decision making. Students with full bladders were
better at identifying colors and resisting the temptation to spend money,
but not at identifying the meanings of words.
— Makoto Imai
and team at Shiga University of Medical Science for their patented invention
of an alarm that wakes people up by releasing a pungent wasabi spray.
Physiology — Anna Wilkinson and team at the
University of Lincoln for their Current Zoology paper "No evidence of
contagious yawning in the red-footed tortoise, Geochelone carbonaria".
Biology — Darrell Gwynne and David Rentz for their discovery that male
buprestid beetles sometimes mistake beer bottles for females and mate with
Physics — Hernman Kingma and
team at Maastricht University for finding why discus throwers get dizzy but
hammer throwers do not.
Psychology — Karl Halvor Teigen
University of Oslo for research into understanding why people sigh.
Literature — John Perry at Stanford University for
developing a Theory of Structured Procrastination: "To be a high achiever,
always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing
something that's even more important."
Peace — Arturas Zuokas, Mayor
of Vilnius, for his crackdown on illegal parking. He drove a tank over
offending luxury cars.
PHILOSOPHER V7 (print format)
2011 September 29
Neutrinos are particles with a neutral
charge and nearly zero mass. They rarely interact with ordinary matter and
trillions of them fly through the Earth each second.
in 1930 by Wolfgang Pauli, they are produced in nuclear reactions inside the
sun, during natural radioactive decay inside the Earth, and in our bombs and
reactors. Occasionally, a neutrino collides with an atom to produce a signal
that we can observe. Fredrick Reines first detected them in 1956.
Detectors may use large pools of water or oil. When neutrinos interact with
electrons or nuclei in the water or oil, they emit photons that light up
sensors. The OPERA experiment inside the Gran Sasso mountain in Italy
detects neutrinos beamed from CERN. The mountain shields the detectors from
everything but neutrinos. Other detectors pick up cosmic neutrinos. ANTARES
is miles under the Mediterranean Sea and IceCube is buried under Antarctic
Neutrinos come in at least three flavors — tau, electron and
muon — and can morph from one flavor to another. Maybe antineutrinos and
neutrinos morph differently. But all observed neutrinos spin anticlockwise.
Maybe there are clockwise neutrinos hidden in extra dimensions. Or in the
dark matter that makes four-fifths of the mass of the universe.
AR The Standard Model is the smallest unit of
understanding that really makes sense of the issues here.
2011 September 28
The Higgs boson is believed to be the particle that
gives all matter in the universe its mass. By the end of the year, we may
know whether it exists or not.
Model describes all known subatomic particles and how they interact.
University of Edinburgh physicist Peter Higgs argued in the 1960s that mass
was the product of a universal field. The field exerts a drag on other
particles, giving them mass. Theory says any field has a particle, so there
should be a Higgs.
The Large Hadron Collider lets researchers smash
together particles at all the energy levels where the Higgs should be found.
Each result the LHC finds is examined and repeated to be sure. The LHC has
now searched much of where the Higgs might have been. All that remains is
the gap between 114 and 135 GeV.
theorist John Ellis: "The fact that we have not yet found the Higgs is a
fantastic success for the Standard Model. The region that remains to be
explored is precisely the region where, according to the Standard Model, we
would expect Higgs to be."
The fun will start if no Higgs is found at
all. Ellis: "I wrote my first paper on the Higgs in 1975, so it's been a
while. But finally, we're going to get closure."
2011 September 27
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have created a
synthetic cerebellum that can receive sensory inputs from the brainstem.
Their device can interpret the inputs and output a signal that prompts motor
neurons to execute the appropriate movement.
One of the functions of
the cerebellum is to help coordinate and time movements. It has a relatively
straightforward neuronal architecture, so it is a good part of the brain to
synthesize. The team analyzed brainstem signals feeding into a real
cerebellum and the output it generated in response. They then used this
information to generate a synthetic version on a chip that sits outside the
skull and is wired into the brain using electrodes.
The team tested
the chip on a rat with a disabled cerebellum. Without the chip connected,
the rat was unable to learn a motor reflex. With it connected, the rat
behaved like a normal animal. The next step is to model larger areas of the
cerebellum that can learn complex movements and test the chip in a conscious
AR Chips for human neocortex will
2011 September 26
Andy Ross, 2011 / Heinrich Heine, 1822
1 page, 303 KB
I really don't
know what it means
That I'm so very sad
A fairy tale from ancient
Won't leave my
The air is cool and it's twilight
And placid flows the
The craggy peak is shining bright
Lit by the evening sun
A lovely maiden sits in light
So beautiful up there
adornments sparkle bright
She combs her golden hair
She combs it with
a golden comb
And sings a wondrous song
It has a quite
The melody is strong
The boatman in his little
Is caught with instant love
He does not see the shallow draft
looks up above
I think the waves will be too strong
For boat and man to try
His fate is with her siren song
Sealed by the Lorelei
Translation dedicated to my mother
2011 September 25
The Stormin' Mormon
In the Republican debate on Thursday night in
Florida, as Rick Perry lapsed into long pauses, Mitt Romney showed a new
sarcastic streak. Romney, a champion flip-flopper, has painted Perry as a
Perry is proving to be Romney’s best asset. Asked
by a moderator what he would do as president if he got a call saying
Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons to the Taliban, Perry
offered a Palinesque meditation on "the Pakistani country."
used his new sarcasm on President Obama, too, claiming the Democrat takes
his inspiration from the "socialist democrats" in Europe. "Guess what?"
Romney said. "Europe isn't working in Europe. It's not going to work here."
Romney is using Perry as a whipping boy on conservative issues. When
Perry attacks Romney as "Obama lite," he could be doing Mitt a favor by
reminding independents and Democrats that the Stormin' Mormon is not a rabid
Einstein's theory of relativity is constructed on the
experimental fact that the velocity of light is independent of your own
motion. His theory implies that the speed of light in a vacuum is nature's speed
Neutrinos can travel through the
Earth as easily as a bullet through fog. A beam from CERN travels into the
Earth and re-emerges 730 km away at Gran Sasso, a laboratory near Rome about
two milliseconds later. If we could send a light beam through the Earth, it
should arrive at the same instant as the neutrino or slightly before it, but
we cannot. So we measure the distance from CERN to Rome and the time that
the neutrino took to get there. The ratio of distance to time gives the
speed. But this is not easy.
Measuring the time to accuracies of
nanoseconds involves accounting for the time that electronic signals take to
pass through circuits, counters, chips, and the myriad pathways of the
nanoworld. If you measure all these, and if that's all you need to know,
then you can determine the time elapsed, but you might be a few nanoseconds
Measuring the distance to an accuracy of about 10 cm in 730 km
is apparently possible by geodesy. You send a radio signal from CERN up to a
satellite, which then relays it to a receiver in Rome. You measure how long
it took and calculate the distance. But the speed of radio waves through the
atmosphere is not "the speed of light".
If neutrinos travel faster
than light, I shall have to rewrite my book
AR Frank Close, 66, is an emeritus fellow at my
Oxford college, professor of theoretical physics at Oxford, and a former
SLAC and CERN researcher.
America and its
allies have a strategy for Afghanistan. They are
declaring victory and heading for the exit. NATO
policymakers talk optimistically about leaving
behind a "viable" state when most western forces
leave in 2014.
The European Union will
"rupture" if the debt crisis allows eurozone
countries to make decisions without consulting
other EU members, says British coalition partner
Nick Clegg. He will fly to Warsaw with the
warning for European colleagues. He will insist
that introducing closer economic ties between
eurozone countries must not weaken British
influence in Europe. Officials fear the UK could
face new waves of damaging regulations designed
to help the eurozone but hinder British
competitiveness. Clegg agreed his text with his
Conservative coalition partners.
The latest IMF report says nearly
half the €6.5 trillion of debt issued by
eurozone governments shows signs of heightened
credit risk: "As a result, banks that have
substantial amounts of more risky and volatile
sovereign debt have faced considerable strains
The Lorelei is a 132 m high slate cliff beside
the Rhine about 40 km south of Koblenz.
Assange: The Life
The story of how
WikiLeaks founder Assange became the first man
in history to write an unauthorized
autobiography will make a great chapter in his
authorized autobiography, should he ever reach
an agreement with himself to write one. You
can't really call yourself a celebrity these
days unless you have at least a couple of
autobiographies under your belt.
memoir is prostitution"
Long Live Books
When Jews think of
life, they think of a book. For us, to read is
to live. Judaism took the form it did because of
the invention of the alphabet. Judaism became a
religion in which education was the fundamental
act. Jews said, I learn therefore I am.
There are many kinds of poverty we should try to
eliminate, but I wonder whether intellectual
impoverishment may not be the deepest and most
debilitating of all.
Scale of the Universe
Zoom from the edge of the
universe to the
of spacetime and learn the
scale of things.
An interactive show
developed by Cary Huang
Britain's top 50 companies
are to be given unprecedented access to
government ministers in an attempt to spark life
into the economy. This new "strategic relations"
initiative is led by the Trade and Investment
Minister, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, who as
Stephen Green was chairman and CEO of HSBC.
AR I recall
Green from Oxford. Good man.
HP Shares Rise
shares jumped nearly 7% as its board considered
replacing CEO Léo Apotheker after less than a
year in the job. An HP insider: "He is like an
organ transplant that didn't take."
at SAP when I left. He was abrasive
but he eased my
Mick Jagger abandoned
writing his autobiography, claiming it was
"I don't particularly want to rummage through my
past ... I'd rather be living more in the present. You can't
really do both at the same time."
MIT Technology Review
Researchers have made carbon
nanotube electrical cables that can carry as much current as
copper wires. These nanotube cables could help carry power in
the electrical grid, provide lightweight wiring for cars and
aircraft, and make connections for computer chips. Researchers at
Rice University are planning for commercial production.
Germany Imports Nuke Power
Germany's decision to phase out its
nuclear power plants by 2022 has rapidly transformed it from
power exporter to importer. Despite Berlin's pledge to move away
from nuclear, the country is now merely buying atomic energy
from neighbors like the Czech Republic and France.
AR Such are the wages of humbug.
The Space Launch System is
intended to carry the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, as well
as cargo, equipment, and science experiments to Earth orbit and
beyond. It will also provide a backup transportation service to
the International Space Station. First tests are scheduled for
2017. Before then, the SLS will cost $10 billion to develop,
plus another $6 billion for the Orion capsule and $2 billion to
refurbish the Florida spaceport for it.
2011 September 24
The American philosopher William James
gave the Gifford lectures on religion in Edinburgh in 1901. The lectures
were a triumph, and the book —
The Varieties of
Religious Experience — is a classic.
James hated the
belligerent secularism that treats religion as a childish superstition. The
idea of superstition started life as a word for deviations from true faith,
and the first self-declared enemies of superstition were not enlightened
scientists but inquisitorial bigots. And not all believers are gullible
James said feeling is the deeper source of religion, and
"philosophic and theological formulas are secondary products, like
translations of a text into another tongue." Becoming religious was like
falling in love, not a process of intellectual persuasion.
James thought religion was moving away from
supernaturalism and theology. A secular religion of humanity did not appeal
to him, but he warmed to the idea of a religion of democracy. For him,
democracy meant an unconditional love of ordinary humanity, and a
willingness to entrust the things we prize to their choices.
medical man, James thought the soul was no more than a "hot place" in a
succession of fields of consciousness or a "habitual center" of personal
energy. No immortality there, then.
2011 September 23
Einstein's special theory of relativity says nothing can
travel faster than the speed of light. This is the foundation of modern
physics. But CERN researchers today report finding neutrinos that go faster
than 299 792 458 m/s.
The OPERA (Oscillation Project with
Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment lies 1400 km underground in the Gran
Sasso National Laboratory in Italy. It is designed to study a beam of
neutrinos from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland.
detects the arrival of the neutrinos 60 ns, or
about 20 parts per million too soon. The distance between the LHC and OPERA
is 730 km and is known to within 20 cm. The team measured the time of the
trip to within 10 ns, and they have measured the effect in more than 16 000
events over two years. They say the result has a significance of six-sigma.
OPERA spokesman Antonio Ereditato: "We are shocked."
theoretician John Ellis remains skeptical. Neutrinos from supernova 1987a
would have shown up years earlier than its light, but they arrived within
hours of each other. Ellis: "It's difficult to reconcile with what OPERA is
Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA
detector in the CNGS beam
The Big Snap
MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark says when
the expansion of the universe is combined with conservation
of information you get a catastrophic end of the universe he calls the big
According to quantum mechanics, every particle and force field
in the universe is associated with a wave, which tells us everything there
is to know about that particle or that field. The sum total of all the waves
in the universe give us all the information we need to predict the future.
According to general relativity, even empty space has information
associated with it. The fabric of spacetime is warped, and you need
information to say how.
Think of the universe as pixelated into
Planck-size cells. Black hole theory suggests that each cell corresponds to
one bit of information. But when you run the universe forward a billion
years, as it expands, either the cells get bigger or new information
appears. Since new information would contradict quantum mechanics, we assume
the expansion creates no new information. Then the cell size for each bit
grows bigger. Eventually, this rips spacetime apart — the big snap.
If the big snap is our doom, we should be able to see it coming. Photons of
different energies travel at the same speed if space is continuous. But as
the spacetime cells grow, high-energy photons begin to move more slowly than
low-energy ones. As the cells get even larger, the trajectories of waves
associated with particles are skewed. Things fall apart.
If the early
universe expanded fast, as in the theory of inflation, we are likely to be
just a few billion years away from the end, and the granularity of spacetime
should already be large enough to skew the arrival time of photons of
different wavelengths in gamma-ray bursts.
How unitary cosmology
generalizes thermodynamics and solves the inflationary entropy problem
We analyze cosmology assuming unitary
quantum mechanics, using a tripartite partition into system, observer and
environment degrees of freedom. We show that because of the long-range
entanglement created by cosmological inflation, the cosmic entropy decreases
exponentially rather than linearly with the number of bits of information
observed. This ends in the Big Snap, where an increasingly granular
expanding space modifies our physics.
2011 September 22
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has a
vision for Europe: increased solidarity to save the eurozone. He is trying
to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Sarkozy: "I spent the night
with Germany ... Angela is moving in a sensible direction in terms of saving
the monetary union." French palace officials say Sarkozy and Merkel are
engaged in a hesitation waltz.
Let Webb Live
officials and others say the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the
Hubble Space Telescope, should still fly despite cost increases. Recent
calculations peg its price tag at nearly $8.7 billion. An independent panel
last year blamed delays and mismanagement by NASA officials. Space Telescope
Science Institute director Matt Mountain said JWST still deserves the full
support of the astronomical community.
2011 September 21
IMF World Economic Outlook: "Global activity has weakened and become more
uneven, confidence has fallen sharply recently, and downside risks are
Bundesbank Governor Jens Weidmann: "Politicians have to
choose between two models. One model has self-reliant members who do not
support the others and are disciplined by the market, the other model is
deeper political integration. There is no middle path."
Commission president Jacques Delors: "We have a moral responsibility. The
euro is on the brink of the abyss. A step towards federalism is to be
2011 September 20
The Euro's Fatal Flaw
In most European Union countries, the euro was
introduced without securing the direct assent of voters. It was assumed that
voters would learn to love their new currency as it led to a more prosperous
and powerful Europe. But now the single currency is associated with
austerity and debt.
Angela Merkel knows German
voters will never accept underwriting the debts of southern Europe on a
permanent basis. The voters of Finland and the Netherlands are more hardline
than the Germans on this notion. Anger against the northern Europeans is
mounting in the austerity-hit Mediterranean nations.
currency union needs a political union. Steps towards deeper European unity
work best when they are technical-sounding, hard to understand, and not
subject to the approval of voters. The European Central Bank program to buy
Greek, Italian, and Spanish bonds meets this description perfectly.
2011 September 19
Europe Must Act
Over the past two years, the European authorities
have done just enough to avoid an imminent collapse of the euro, but never
enough to re-establish confidence.
Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde offers three principles
for approaching the problem:
1 If the
common currency is to survive, Europe must increase its commitment to the
financial stability of member states and reduce their financial autonomy.
2 European banks need realistic stress
testing and then access to private or public capital. Otherwise managers
will rein in credit just when this is most likely to damage real economic
3 Europe can handle its debts
and contribute to a stronger global economy only if it grows. This will
require both aggregate fiscal and monetary expansion.
finance ministers and central bank governors will gather in Washington next
weekend for their annual meetings. A clear way forward for Europe must
U.S. Air Force Predator pilot Colonel Matt Martin sits in a
control room in Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and watches as his Taliban
targets light up cigarettes, take a dump, or shag a sheep on the other side
of the world.
2011 September 18
Why I Don't Want To Be a Cyborg
I believe that some of the technologies advocated
by transhumanists threaten our humanity. My book
Humanity's End exposes some of the hidden costs of radical enhancement.
I think the most interesting questions about human enhancement address
human nature. These questions can be frustrating. We're a species that uses
technology, not a species that's destined to become technology. Enhancement
places human meaning under threat. We're a social species; we connect with
other humans. We find meaning in what they do and experience. But we have a
weaker connection with radically enhanced beings.
In 2004 I defended
human enhancement. I argued that prospective parents should be granted a
limited prerogative to enhance their children's characteristics. Human
enhancement is good, but one can overdo it. We can refrain from certain uses
of enhancement technologies if we decide that doing so is important enough.
I hope people will select very cautiously from the menu of possible human
2011 September 17
Jimmy Leeward, 74, lost
control of his P-51 Mustang "Galloping Ghost" at an air show in Reno,
Nevada. The plane crashed vertically at full power into the crowd.
2011 September 16
The euro crisis could endanger the political
cohesion of the European Union. The weakness in the construction of the euro
was the lack of a common treasury. The path to a solution has to be found in
Germany. To prevent a financial meltdown:
1 Bank deposits have to be protected.
Some banks in defaulting countries have to be kept functioning.
3 The European banking system has to be
4 Other government bonds have
to be protected from contagion.
The German public still thinks it can
choose whether or not to support the euro. That is a mistake. A breakdown of
the euro would cause a meltdown beyond the capacity of the authorities to
contain. There is no alternative to a European treasury with the power to
tax and to borrow.
A patchwriter is a text processor for whom the
construction or conception of a text is as important as what it says or
does. A patchwriter weaves together various shards of other people's words
into a tonally cohesive whole. It's a trick that students use all the time.
The result is a work of unoriginal genius.
Cutting and pasting are integral to the writing process. Web
technology makes harvesting masses of language easy and tempting. This sets
the stage for a literary revolution. Yet writing is still mostly wedded to
promoting authenticity at all costs. Courses on creative writing rely on
clichéd notions of what it means to be creative.
The suppression of
self-expression is impossible. The act of choosing and reframing tells us as
much about ourselves as any intimate story. Success lies in knowing what to
include and what to leave out. All language can be transformed into poetry
by merely reframing. Even if the process is reduced to machine code, the
smartest minds behind the machines will be considered our greatest authors.
AR Now I have a word for my art. This short
text is a patchwritten transform of a long source text.
2011 September 15
On September 20 the Palestinian Authority plans to
unilaterally declare statehood and go to the United Nations for recognition.
Israel is threatened by uproar in Egypt, a nuclear Iran, unrest in Syria,
and Muslim Arab states and societies generally.
Many moderate Israelis fear the country is heading for
ruin. The country's ruling class live in opulence, and the feeling is that
they are out of touch with reality. The top decile of Israel's population
earns 31 percent of the country's total net income, the lowest decile 1.6
percent. Israel is a not a democracy for the 2.5 million Arabs of the West
Bank or the 1.5 million Arabs of the Gaza Strip. Since the West Bank and
Gaza were conquered in 1967, Israel retains a stranglehold over these
Resurgent Islam is spreading across the region like a
brushfire. Many in the West have taken heart from the so-called Arab Spring.
Israelis are less optimistic. The Palestinian statehood bid will trigger
shock waves around the Islamic world. Israel will face a political tsunami.
Nasa has revealed an $18 billion plan for a
monster rocket. The size and power of the new Space Launch System (SLS) will
trump even that of the Saturn V rockets that took men to the
NASA head and former shuttle astronaut Major-General Charlie
Bolden: "President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big and that's
exactly what we are doing at NASA."
The SLS is 98 m tall and will make its
first test flight in 2017. It will carry a payload of up to 70 tons, later
130 tons. Federal funding for the project is expected to total $18 billion
by 2017. President Obama has spoken of landing a crew on an asteroid by 2025
and a few years later on Mars.
2011 September 14
The eurozone lacks a central bank able and willing to
act as lender of last resort in all important markets, a rescue fund large
enough to ensure liquidity in sovereign bond markets and effective ways of
managing an interconnected web of sovereign insolvencies and banking crises.
German policymakers persist in viewing the world through the lens of a
relatively small, open and highly competitive economy. But the eurozone is
not a small open economy; it is a large and relatively closed one. The core
country of such a union must either provide a buoyant market for less
creditworthy countries when the latter can no longer finance their deficits,
or it has to finance them.
The least bad option would be for the ECB
to ensure liquidity for solvent governments and financial institutions,
without limit. If the German government decided that it could not support
such a bold step, the ECB should go ahead anyway. Germany must choose
between a eurozone disturbingly different from the larger Germany it
expected or no eurozone at all.
China To The Rescue
Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabao says China wants to use the world's largest foreign exchange reserves
to invest more in European countries and the United States. He requested
that Europeans recognize China as a market economy. This would protect China
from dumping charges and have symbolic value. He called for the United
States to open its market to Chinese investment and increase exports to
China by lifting restrictions on high-tech goods.
Mecca = Las Vegas
Over the past ten
years the holiest site in Islam has become the
al-Saud monarchy's vision of the future: a steel
and concrete metropolis built on the proceeds of
enormous oil wealth. But growing numbers of
citizens have looked on aghast as Mecca has
become a playground for the rich.
What happens when it becomes clear that
our robotic selves, and not our biological
Cartesian selves, are the real inheritors of
Space, the Final Frontier?
Pope in Germany
In his speech to the
German parliament, Pope Benedict XVI said that
European values such as human rights and
equality stem from a belief in God and said "to
ignore this or to see it as part of our past
would be an amputation of our culture as a
whole." He said that Europe's culture is the
result of the meeting between "Israeli belief in
God, the philosophical logic of Greece and the
legal thought of Rome. This tripartate encounter
forms Europe's inner identity."
Canongate Books is
going ahead with the UK publication of
Julian Assange: the Unauthorised
Autobiography against his wishes
following a contractual dispute. The book is
ghostwritten from transcripts of interviews with
Poetic justice —
or a publicity stunt?
Susanne Lencinas Fotografie
The America Invents Act allows third parties to
introduce evidence of prior art to block patents from being
issued and it introduces a new framework to challenge issued
patents. The Patent and Trademark Office has about 1.2 million
patent applications pending. The new bill does not reform
litigation damage awards.
AR Not radical enough.
The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism
agents that mainstream American Muslims are likely to be
terrorist sympathizers, that the Prophet Mohammed was a cult
leader, and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is a
funding mechanism for combat.
The Feds were hard on the Reds a few decades ago too.
South Kensingon, London
Studio apartment, 13 sqm
= 9 sqm main
4 sqm mezzanine for bed
Max guests: 2 people
Rate: £777 for 7 nights
Ten Lost Years
The policy of the United States after
9/11 damaged the country. The War on Terror should have ended
when al-Qaida was driven out of Afghanistan. Instead, the United
States turned it into an ideological world war. It expended so
many resources in this struggle that it shifted the global
tectonics of power. The rise of China was accelerated. The
United States overestimated its abilities. Democracy cannot be
bombed into existence.
Many Muslims and Westerners
consider each other to be fanatical and dangerous. A division of
the world into Muslims and Westerners seems more irreparable
than anyone could have imagined before the concept of the clash
of cultures was invented. The Islamophobia spreading through
large parts of Europe is inconceivable without 9/11. Osama bin
Laden failed as a revolutionary. But as a terrorist he was
successful beyond compare.
Britain and China
Britain and China have agreed to
boost Chinese infrastructure investment in the UK and make
London an offshore trading centre for the renminbi. Despite
British criticism of China's human rights record, British
officials said there had been "good atmospherics" at a summit in
London between Chinese vice-premier Wang Qishan and British
chancellor George Osborne.
What are "good atmospherics"? Did no one emit unpleasant body
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants "more
Europe" and says that to make Europe strong and lasting, "treaty
amendments can no longer be taboo in order to bind the EU closer
together." She said a strong Europe was in Germany's interest: "In the
long term, Germany cannot be successful if Europe isn't doing well too."
As to the euro crisis: "The euro is the guarantee of a united Europe. If
the euro fails, then Europe fails."
The Lost Decade
In the decade since 9/11, we
created a vast new security bureaucracy, launched two wars, and
reoriented our foreign policy. Ten years later, al-Qaida is in profound
disarray, fanatical Islam is on the decline, and our military remains
the best in the world. But we paid too high a price.
In our focus
on Islamic fanaticism, we missed the transformation of China from a
commercial power into an ambitious political power. We underestimated
the economic rise of East Asia. We missed the transformation of Russia
into a feisty opponent. We missed a chance to make a deal on immigration
with Mexico. In the Arab world, we aligned ourselves too closely with
At home, we stopped investing in our own
infrastructure and ignored any number of economic, environmental, and
political issues. We narrowed our horizons. Could it be that 9/11 did
less damage to the nation than the cascade of bad decisions that
The New Way
In experiments first reported in 1998, Roy
Baumeister and his collaborators discovered that the will can be
fatigued. Immediately after students engage in a task that requires them
to control their impulses, they show lapses in a subsequent task that
also requires an exercise of willpower. Baumeister called the effect ego
depletion. He then then showed that a depleted ego can be invigorated by
a refreshment and that self-control can be toned up by exercising it.
Willpower consists of circuitry in the brain that runs on glucose, has a
limited capacity, and operates by rules we can understand.
A team at UCSB have performed
two benchmark feats using quantum computers based on superconducting
The team used a chip embedded with wires
mixing aluminum and rhenium. These wires
were cooled to almost 0 K to make them superconducting. The Cooper pairs
of electrons in each wire were made to resonate as an ensemble to carry
qubits. The team entangled these qubits using a bus that snaked all
around the chip. They tuned the bus to a qubit and then entangled it
with further qubits.
The first benchmark feat was to run a
quantum Fourier transform. This is a step in Shor's algorithm for
factorizing the big numbers used in encryption systems. The second feat
was to implement a Toffoli gate, which entangles 3 qubits and is a key
element for bigger circuits.
In the vast open steppe outside Mongolia's capital
Ulaanbaatar, there is a giant statue of the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan.
People flock here in their thousands each day to revere his memory. One
visitor: "I come here every few months to pay respect to our great
emperor. He conquered the world." Genghis Khan and his descendants
conquered much of China, Russia, central Asia, Europe and the Middle
East from 1206 onward. It is still the greatest land empire the
world has known. Geneticists say almost one in ten men in Asia carry the
DNA of Genghis Khan.
The Rise of Genghis Khan
Director: Sergey Bodrov
2011 September 13
John-Dylan Haynes and other experimental neuroscientists
argue that consciousness of a decision may be a mere biochemical
afterthought, with no influence on our actions. According to this logic,
they say, free will is an illusion.
Haynes has refined
his 2008 results in two studies. One uses more accurate scanning
techniques to confirm the roles of the brain regions implicated in his
previous work. In the other, yet to be published, Haynes and his team asked
subjects to add or subtract two numbers from a series being presented on a
screen. Deciding whether to add or subtract reflects a more complex
intention than that of whether to push a button. The researchers detected
activity up to four seconds before the subjects were conscious of deciding.
The results from neuroscience concern predictability but not
determinism. Most philosophers are comfortable with the idea that people can
make rational decisions in a deterministic universe.
Haynes et al. 2008
2011 September 12
Israel and the Mideast
Israeli prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu says his government is determined to preserve the peace
treaty with Egypt but also said: "This peace is being challenged and those
who challenge it are challenging not only the policy but also the state
known as Israel."
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned
that the Turkish navy would protect Gaza-bound ships future, following
Israel’s refusal to apologize for the killing of Turkish activists on a
Turkish ship sailing to Gaza last year. Ankara has expelled Israeli
diplomats from Turkey and downgraded its mission in Tel Aviv.
Hebrew University professor Shlomo Avineri says Israel's ties with Cairo and
Ankara have both suffered as a result of the deadlocked peace process with
the Palestinians. A vote on Palestinian statehood at the UN is expected
later this month. Avineri: "In Egypt we have a very weak government with a
problematic legitimacy. On many issues, not just regarding Israel, it is
looking over its shoulder and following what the street is demanding."
There is consensus in Israel that there is little the government
can do to improve regional ties. Netanyahu said the Middle East was
currently "undergoing a political earthquake of historic proportions" and
compared the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world with the "establishment
of a new world order" after World War I.
2011 September 10
HP: Unstructured Search
Hewlett-Packard recently acquired British
pattern-recognition software house Autonomy for $10.2 billion. Autonomy
founder Mike Lynch says HP plans to create a new unstructured search system.
Some analysts say HP is clutching at straws. Lynch says HP will finally
make messy, unstructured data searchable in mainstream applications on smart
phones, computers, or online in the cloud.
By the end of 2011, Lynch
hopes HP's Vertica text-search database, which supports search for
structured data, will operate with Autonomy's Idol system, which finds
relationships between informal, unstructured text, audio, images and video.
Idol extracts the probability that human behaviors caught on video, say,
are related to the words uttered in a voicemail and/or a report, allowing
search over all the data. Lynch: "It will also help scientists take very
large datasets and get meaning out of them."
HP boss Apotheker learned from the success of my SAP team's
accelerator engine that, in the immortal words of Star Trek, search is "the
2011 September 9
Ten Years On
The 9/11 attack completely changed the politics of
global security. I was very keen to make sure that this was seen not simply
as an attack on America but on all of us, and to make sure that we put
together the broadest coalition.
Even though the number of extremists
was very small, the number of people who bought a certain amount of the
narrative that gave rise to that extremism was worryingly large. The
narrative in which religion is mixed up with politics is far more widespread
than we understood at the time. You had to look the proliferation of nuclear
and chemical weapons in a completely different way because the calculus of
risk had changed completely.
In Iraq one of the problems has been the
continued intervention of Iran, and likewise in Afghanistan. We're still in
the middle of a long struggle in which those countries that are failed
states escape from corrupt politics, tribalism, and a perversion of
The threat is deeper and bigger than we realized because it
is an ideology with a movement and with a narrative, and you've got to
undercut all that if you want to destroy the movement.
I think we're
a lot better off in Afghanistan and Iraq than we would have been if we'd
still got those regimes in charge. Now we've got to use the focus of the
Arab Spring to try and help bring about lasting and true democratic change.
Democracy is not just about the right to vote in and out your
government, it's about freedom of expression, a free media, open markets,
the rule of law, an open attitude of mind. Democracy doesn't work unless it
comes with those attributes.
From 9/11 onwards, we were focused on
the security measures that we had to take and the military action that
followed from that. But if you want to win this struggle, you're going to
have to win it through hearts and minds as well as through military
measures. I believe we will win, but it's going to take time.
2011 September 8
Decline Of The West
Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda attacked America on
9/11 because they believed the United States was past its prime.
The narratives of the West and the rest diverged in 1989.
In the West, 1989 was seen as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end
of the Cold War. The West triumphed. Francis Fukuyama said it was the end of
history. For Osama bin Laden, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 because of
the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The year marked the end of a history
dominated by the twin superpowers of communist Russia and capitalist
The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argued in 1981 that the
moral discourse of the West had broken down: "The barbarians are not waiting
beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some
If so, then 9/11 belongs alongside the disintegration of the
family, the demise of authority, the build-up of personal debt, the collapse
of financial institutions, and the loss of a sense of honour, loyalty, and
integrity. A civilisation has grown old. Me takes precedence over We, and we
are in trouble. The enemy is not radical Islam, it is us.
AR Traditional notions of honor and credit have
gone down in flames, no doubt, and we in the West need to shape up to a new
world where China, India, and Islam play big roles. The Me-We issue is key
to our doing so. As for how we do so, in a world of global business,
social networks and so on, my answer, outlined in my 2010 book
G.O.D. Is Great, is that for each of us, we are all me, and my world and
yours merge in our world, which grows into a Global Online Dominion where
the logic of me-we melts into a planetary self. I say this is the
evolutionary cash value of the Abrahamic myth. May Lord Sacks be cheered by
2011 September 7
The Post-9/11 Military
The American military has shifted from a peacetime military to a
continuously wartime military, and it has done so for the first time since
the United States got rid of the draft.
The new Army is fighting not tank-on-tank battles but counter-insurgency
campaigns, waged in towns and villages, in which soldiers must be as
attentive to community relations as to combat. The lessons have come not
just from senior officers but also from online networks that exchange
practical ideas about dealing with new threats and challenges.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was right in Iraq that smart bombs, new
sensors, and computerized communications networks reduced the number of
ground troops needed to perform certain missions. But he failed to
understand Clausewitz's dictum that war is politics through other means. It
took a few more years after the Iraq invasion for the military to learn the
1 The basic Army unit is no
longer a division but a brigade or even a battalion.
2 Army specialties are changing. Field artillery
and tanks are less important. Light infantry, air cavalry, and troops for
special operations and civil affairs are in demand.
3 The Air Force has reverted to the role of
supporting the Army.
The Air Force now trains more joystick pilots
than flying pilots. The new pilots sit in Nevada, steering an unmanned
aerial vehicle via remote control, watching the live video from a UAV camera
and firing weapons to order. The UAV pilots are the new warriors.
Some officers and analysts are alarmed that military personnel may be losing
the older skills. But the Air Force still has a lot of air-to-air fighters
and pilots, and the Army has adopted a strategy called "full-spectrum
operations," in which soldiers are trained and equipped to pivot on a dime
from head-on combat to stability operations to counterinsurgency. The force
is more capable now than it was ten years ago.
2011 September 6
7.30 pm: Reception in Frankfurt
with Prof. Dr. Andrew Hamilton,
Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University
Austerity Cure For Eurozone
In the eurozone, excessive state spending has
led to unsustainable levels of debt and deficits. Piling on more debt now
will stunt rather than stimulate growth in the long run. Governments in and
beyond the eurozone need to cut expenditures, increase revenues and remove
the structural hindrances in their economies.
The members of the
eurozone will collectively provide conditional financial assistance to those
countries that need time to put their public finances on a sustainable
footing and to improve their competitiveness. There are risks to this
strategy. Yet the alternative would be riskier still.
need the disciplining forces of markets. But markets need strong regulation.
The eurozone crisis unfolded after a decade during which economies with
diverging fiscal profiles and competitiveness borrowed at close to benchmark
Fiscal policy in the eurozone should only become more
centralised if this process is legitimised by a strong democratic mandate.
Strengthening the architecture of the eurozone will need time.
2011 September 5
The biggest and most lasting consequence of 9/11 is
the economic mess that America and Europe are now in. After the dot-com
bubble burst in 2000, the Federal Reserve Board cut interest rates. Then
9/11 froze economic activity briefly. The Fed kept the monetary taps open as
if there had been a downturn. The next bubble was much larger. It burst in
Why, after 9/11, did the Fed keep pumping in
credit to housing and banks? Why did fiscal policy under President George W.
Bush turn expansionary? The answer: war. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
added at least $1.5 trillion to America's public debt. Americans decided to
fight, and damn the consequences.
The Scent of Dried Roses
It has been nearly 25 years since I suffered the
catastrophic breakdown that
prompted me to write my memoir. Since then I have been married, divorced,
and remarried. I have four daughters. I have written five novels.
Scent of Dried Roses tells how, at the age of 31, I found myself in the grip
of a suicidal depression that lasted for months. Every day was a torment,
every night a struggle. A few months later I recovered, thanks to a course
At the conclusion of SDR I considered myself more
or less cured. I believed that I understood clearly the thought patterns
that led a mind into depression, and how to avoid them. I continued to find
I have learnt to be easy on myself. Now, when
struck down, I spend a lot of time sleeping and reading, and keep myself
apart from the family as much as possible. I will never be free of
depression, and I accept it. It is just bad luck.
AR I'm glad I don't
have it that bad.
2011 September 4
Altkanzler Gerhard Schröder fordert mehr Tempo beim
Ausbau der Europäischen Union zu einer Art Vereinigte Staaten von Europa.
Als Lehre aus der Euro-Krise mahnt der Altkanzler weitreichende Reformen an.
Er plädiert für einen gemeinsamen europäischen Finanzminister, der vom
Europäischen Parlament kontrolliert wird. Schröder: Man sollte jetzt "nicht
länger fackeln, sondern Ernst machen mit Kern-Europa."
Schröder kritisiert der Rolle der Briten in der EU: "Die größten Probleme
macht Großbritannien." Das Land sei nicht im Euro, "aber die Briten wollen
trotzdem immer mitreden bei der Gestaltung eines Wirtschaftsraums. Das geht
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wants to speed up the extension of the European
Union to a United States of Europe. He sees the euro crisis as showing the
need for big reforms. He wants to see a shared European finance minister
answerable to the European Parliament. Schröder says we should "stop
dithering and get serious about a core Europe."
Schröder says the
British cause the biggest problems in Europe. Britain is not in the euro
"but the British still want a say in how to set up an economic zone. That
2011 September 3
Philosophical counselors help people with life
problems — divorce, job stress, the economic downturn, parenting woes,
chronic illness and matters of the heart. Their therapy averages about $80
an hour for one-on-one sessions. They refer any client with clinical
depression or suicidal thoughts to psychiatrists.
president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association is Lou
Marinoff, who with his rapid-fire Socratic-shrink shtick could be a cross
between Woody Allen and Sigmund Freud. Marinoff, a professor and philosophy
chair at the City College of New York, is determined to make philosophical
counseling a popular and well-respected profession.
The advent of
this therapy is well-timed, since many philosophers are out of work — or
more out of work than usual. As Marinoff puts it, "What are the first words
a philosophy graduate utters? 'Would you like fries with that, sir?' See,
the fries joke, that's exactly what we are trying to change."
36-year-old Maryland client of a philosophical counselor who asked not to be
named sought help after his spouse died of cancer. The client, who works at
an Internet company, said philosophical counseling helped process his grief
and shock — largely because he was so distracted by heavy reading
AR Excellent: my next
profession — counselor. I'm open for business today.
2011 September 2
MIT Technology Review
UCSB researchers have for
the first time combined a quantum processor with memory for storing
instructions and data in a von Neumann architecture. This does for quantum
computing what Konrad Zuse did on a larger scale for classical computing in 1941
(blog 2011 May 12).
In a classical computer, a bit can represent either 1 or 0.
In a quantum computer, a qubit can represent both values at once. When
qubits work together, they can operate on exponentially more data than the
same number of bits. So quantum computers should be amazing.
group used electrical circuits cooled to almost 0 K to make them
superconducting. The team placed the qubits and memory elements close
together on a single chip.
The processor contains two qubits linked
by a quantum bus. Each qubit is also connected to a memory cell to store its
value. The qubits move to memory via resonators, zigzagging circuits inside
which their value can persist for a while. The group implemented a Toffoli
gate (a quantum component that is universal for classical computation) to
perform a step in a data encryption algorithm.
circuits seem to be a reliable way to do quantum computing. By replicating
the von Neumann architecture, the UCSB team have opened the way to scaling
Ref: Implementing the Quantum von
Neumann Architecture with Superconducting Circuits
Matteo Mariantoni et
AR This is pretty historic
stuff. Supercooled circuits are the way to go until we can get photonics out
of the labs.
2011 September 1
The first hydrogen bomb exploded above
a Pacific atoll in 1952. Since then, despite our best efforts, practicable
fusion reactors have always been some fifty years in the future.
Commercial fusion would compress a gas of hydrogen isotopes to form a hot
plasma. In this state, the nuclei can fuse to make helium nuclei, plus some
neutrons, plus a lot of energy. The fuel is cheap. Deuterium can be
extracted from water and tritium can be bred from lithium in the reactor.
Deuterium-tritium fusion only kicks in at temperatures above 45 MK.
Reaching such temperatures uses a lot of energy, and strong magnetic fields
are needed to keep the hot plasma away from the reactor walls. Soviet
scientists learned decades ago to make and hold the plasma inside a toroidal
vessel they called a tokamak. The Oxfordshire-based Joint European Torus
(JET) tokamak, operating since 1983, has never quite reached break-even. It
once achieved a 16 MW output for a 20 MW input, but for less than
The bigger the tokamak, the better the chance of extracting
more energy than it uses. The ITER tokamak in southern France builds on the
JET results and is designed to achieve break-even. With over four times the
confinement volume and with magnetic fields almost three times as strong, it
should contain a plasma for several minutes, ultimately achieving 10 times
more output than input. But it comes at a huge financial cost and will not
break even until 2026 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, in Redmond, in the
U.S. state of Washington, the Fusion Engine, made by Helion Energy, will
rely on a very different method of making and confining plasmas. Discovered
in 1960, this method involves colliding two small balls of plasma at very
high speed to ignite fusion. The reaction is over in a fraction of a second
and the neutrons are easy to collect for breeding tritium. Helion
researchers have so far achieved a temperature of 25 MK. That's still too
cool for fusion, but they calculate that ignition should occur in a device
three times the size of their prototype.
The Fusion Engines that
Helion plans would generate around 100 MW. They could convert the highly
radioactive waste from today's fission reactors into low-level isotopes and
nuclear fuel. Fifty engines could clean up the U.S. stockpile of nuclear
waste in 20 years. Once the technology is established, the reactors could
become commercial power plants.
The Enormous Theorem
Group theorist Michael Aschbacher at
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena wins the 2011
Rolf Schock prize in mathematics from the Royal Swedish Academy
of Sciences for his key role in proving the classification
theorem of finite groups, also known as the Enormous Theorem.
The proof is 15,000 pages long.
There infinitely many
finite simple groups but they form a finite number of families.
The Enormous Theorem was proposed in about 1971, when Daniel
Gorenstein devised a plan to identify all the finite simple
groups, divide them into families and prove that no others could
exist. Gorenstein and his hundreds of collaborators spent a
decade working on the proof, but it remained incomplete until
2004, when Aschbacher and Stephen Smith published a 1200-page
guide through the last piece of the puzzle.
The purpose of the American Jobs Act is
to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of
those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction
workers, for teachers, for veterans, and for the long-term
unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire
new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half. It will
provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled.
AR Has stalled indeed.
Christopher Hitchens has made himself the key
writer of the post-9/11 age. No novelist or poet has registered the
texture of the past decade as pungently as Hitchens has in the essay
form. In his 2007 book God
Is Not Great, Hitchens said he would happily
leave religion alone if only religion would leave him alone. But, he
said, it keeps declining to do that.
The Real Decade
Since 2001, the combined share of Brazil,
Russia, India, and China in the world economy more than doubled; casino
capitalism crashed; Internet access increased sixfold to more than two
billion people; and a surge for freedom hit the Mideast.
1 To reassert diplomacy in international
2 To rethink our notions of a balance of power
3 To share
The West must rediscover multilateralism.
America today is flagging. New powers such as China and India are
rising. Europe is struggling. Economic security enables military
expansion, not vice versa, and neither is achievable without political
vision. That is the most important lesson of the post-9/11 decade.
AR David is right that the rise of new economic actors is more
important in the history of the decade than the mess in the MESA region.
But he is surely wrong to play down the importance of the Islamic
challenge to the West. The juggernaut of Western globalism has acquired
a new dark side since 9/11. Before then it was communism (not Soviet
since 1989 but Chinese) and now it is fundamentalism (either
Crusader-Zionist or Islamist). Any new political vision must confront
this fact squarely.
The Red Arrows
drew a heart in the sky with smoke Friday in Derbyshire. Two weeks
earlier the eight pilots
had flown with Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, 33, before he died in
a crash near Bournemouth airport. The Red Arrows will fly
one plane short for the rest of 2011.
AR I saw
all nine Red Arrows fly their sign-off
heart in the sky in Bournemouth just minutes before Egging crashed on
SAP Versus Oracle
A U.S. judge has overturned a $1.3 billion
jury award won last year by Oracle against SAP. Judge Phyllis Hamilton
ruled in federal court that the earlier trial entitled Oracle to damages
of no more than $272 million. The ruling lays the ground for a new trial
in the case.
The case stemmed from the unauthorized access gained
by TomorrowNow, an SAP subsidiary, to Oracle computer systems. SAP
admitted wrongdoing. The jury in the case agreed with Oracle CEO Larry
Ellison that SAP should pay the cost of a hypothetical license for
access. But Judge Hamilton said Oracle gave self-serving testimony. SAP
welcomed the new ruling.
AR What a
relief. I had nothing to do with TomorrowNow but the case depressed me
Adora BatBrat is the electrogoth queen
of YouTube, "a self-proclaimed Martha Stewart, an alternative model and an
old school electro goth,
a make up guide, a mother of 3 kids named after
synthesizers and a vampire partygirl in general!"
The Death of Books?
The year 2011 to date has seen a drop in
printed book sales against 2010. In May, Amazon announced that it was
selling more Kindle versions of books than paperback and hardbacks
combined. In the US, Amazon saw the fastest year-on-year growth rate for
its books business. Hardcover sales continue to grow. Kindle versions
of new books are outselling hardback versions at similar prices. People
are buying books.
The Ten Commandments
of Steve Jobs
Go for perfect
2 Tap the experts
3 Be ruthless
Shun focus groups
5 Never stop studying
Keep your secrets
8 Keep teams small
9 Use more carrot than stick
10 Prototype to the max
Philosopher Charles Taylor, 80, lost four
races for the Canadian House of Commons. He wrote two books on Hegel and
taught at Oxford. In
2007, he won the Templeton Prize. Five propositions characterize his
1 Once enchanted, we are
now disenchanted. Up until about 1500, Taylor believes, people in
Christendom were enchanted and open to metaphysical notions.
2 Our response should not be nostalgia.
Taylor is a Roman Catholic. The modern fore-grounding of earthly life,
as opposed to eternal life, worries him, because seeing one's bodily
survival and flourishing as the ultimate goal of existence tends toward
3 If we're going to live
with modernity, we should start by trying to understand the cult of
authenticity. We now seek to be true to ourselves.
4 The challenge is to live a life that is
personally authentic while giving that life meaning and fullness. Just
as any given woman in Quebec wants to be true to herself, the Québécois
want to be true to their culture. The political urge makes no sense
without the personal one.
5 To the
extent that we can succeed in being authentic, as people and as
cultures, we will have a greater fullness than what people had in the
old age of enchantment.
The fullness Taylor wants for secular
selves is a concept from the Christian heritage. Taylor is too honest to
be a politician.
2011 August 31
Dick Cheney's Memoirs
Robert G. Kaiser
Dick Cheney devotes the first 255 pages of his
big book to his life before George W. Bush asked him to lead the effort to
find him the right running mate for the 2000 campaign. The story of his rise
from humble origins is a good one and is briskly told. But he slights or
ignores many key events and important developments in the story from 2001 to
— Warnings of the al-Qaeda threat early in the Bush
— The failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan
— How Bush turned a healthy budget surplus into big deficits
— Why the
Iraq war went wrong after the fall of Saddam Hussein
— How the
administration might have brought on the 2008 crash
that there were connections between Hussein and al-Qaeda before 9/11 that
justified making the invasion of Iraq part of the War on Terror. No
intelligence agency has ever endorsed that view. He never comes to grips
with the fact that Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. He recounts
his own role in the war but ignores many of his personal gaffes.
AR With a big
advance I could write a better history of the era.
2011 August 30
The War on Terror
The War on
Terror was based on the notion that Islamic terrorism represented a unified,
ideologically coherent, and operationally centralized threat, demanding a
predominately military response. But by the latter years of the Bush
administration, the exceptional tactics that defined the War on Terror —
preventative detentions, pain-based interrogation, ethnic and religious
profiling, and widely expanded domestic surveillance powers — were either
abandoned or dramatically scaled back based on overwhelming evidence that
they were ineffective. Meanwhile, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq evolved
into counterterrorism campaigns. The War on Terror lives on today only as
2011 August 14-28
Holiday in England — rained a lot
Empire in the Clouds
— When Britain's Aircraft Ruled the World
Joan Miró exhibition at the Tate Modern
Super 8 —
formulaic Spielbergesque sci-fi drama by Abrams
One Day —
I hope the book is better to justify its bestsellerdom
— spicy comedy that rises above chick flickery
2011 August 13
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, a historian at the University of California, Santa
Barbara, says it was the Soviet entry into the Pacific conflict, not
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that forced Japan's surrender in 1945.
Pacific War began in 1941 with Pearl Harbor. Japan quickly invaded most of
East Asia. In 1942, the United States and its allies turned the tide. But
progress was slow. By the summer of 1945, the Americans were ready for a
final invasion. It would have been bigger than D-Day, certain to result in a
Japan's leaders wanted to end the conflict while
holding onto territory, avoiding war crimes trials, and preserving the
imperial system. They hoped to convince the Soviet Union to mediate a
settlement with the Americans. It was a long shot, but it made strategic
In March 1945, B-29 Superfortress bombers dropped
thousands of incendiary bombs on downtown Tokyo. The resulting firestorm
killed some 100,000 people. By August, more than 60 of Japan’s cities had
been substantially destroyed by firebombs.
8/6: The B-29 Enola Gay
dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Hasegawa says the Japanese leadership
reacted with concern, but not panic.
8/7: Foreign Minister Shigenori
Togo sent an urgent telegram to his ambassador in Moscow.
Soviet Union declared war and launched a broad surprise attack on Japanese
forces in Manchuria. Japan's strategy was ruined. Better to surrender to
Washington than to Moscow.
8/9: Japan's Supreme War Council met to
discuss the terms of surrender. During the meeting, a B-29 dropped a second
atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
8/15: Japan surrendered unconditionally.
Hasegawa: "Once we had accepted strategic bombing as an acceptable
weapon of war, the atomic bomb was a very small step."
2011 August 12
Feral Youth and Venal Rich
David Cameron and the entire British political class
came together yesterday to denounce the rioters. But there was something
phony and hypocritical about their shock and outrage.
Sir Richard Branson is said to be thinking of moving his
business headquarters to Switzerland. This tax dodge was reported as a blow
to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In a sane and decent world it would be a
blow to Sir Richard.
Rotherham MP Denis MacShane: "What the looters
wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street
consumption." This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight
laptops through his expenses.
Feral youths seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so
do the venal rich and powerful, including too many bankers and politicians.
Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain.
Something similar ails the entire West.
My Amazon reviews of
of Philip Larkin
Steve Jobs' biological father is Abdulfattah John Jandali. He was a Syrian
immigrant and is now a casino VP in Nevada. He gave Steve up for
adoption over 50 years ago.
We live in an 8D phase space
merges spacetime and momenergy, says Lee Smolin
Scott Aaronson says computational complexity theory will transform
Peter Orszag: Four ways Congress can upgrade the US credit rating
Before he started the most popular education site on the Web, Salman
Khan was a young hedge-fund manager in Silicon Valley looking for a way
to help his cousin with her math homework. His solution: use Yahoo
Messenger's Doodle feature to illustrate his points as he talked to her
on the phone. Soon he began posting videos of his doodles on YouTube to
accommodate his other cousins, and their friends, and their friends'
friends. In 2009, Khan quit his day job to focus on making the videos
full-time. At last count,
offered some 2,400 videos, all for free.
The financial crisis may be
than in 2008:
1 The 2008 crisis struck at the top of a cycle.
Interest rates were high and central banks cut the cost of borrowing.
Today rates are low.
2 The global situation was better in 2008.
China responded to the crisis with a boom. Today China has high
inflation and cannot help.
3 National balance sheets were good in
2008. Now sovereign debts are at crisis level in many Western
Western leaders are out of their depth. The eurozone
is close to collapse. An economic firestorm is heading our way.
Scientists have found new evidence for possible saltwater
flows on Mars. NASA announced the discovery on Thursday.
AR This is a NASA bid for
more Mars robot
2011 August 10
If you live a normal life of absolute futility,
which we can assume most of this week's rioters do, excitement of any kind
is welcome. The people who wrecked swathes of property, burned vehicles and
terrorised communities have no moral compass. Most have no jobs to go to and no
family role models. They are illiterate and innumerate, essentially wild
beasts. They respond only to instinctive animal impulses.
bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education,
values or aspirations. Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need
feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community.
They have their being only in video games and street fights, casual drug use
and crime. The notions of doing a nine-to-five job, marrying and sticking
with a wife and kids are beyond their imaginations.
It is hard to
help such people, young or old, without imposing a measure of compulsion.
From an early stage, feral children discover that they can bully fellow
pupils at school, shout abuse at people in the streets, urinate outside
pubs, hurl litter from car windows, play car radios at deafening volumes,
and commit casual assaults with only a negligible prospect of retribution.
My dogs are better behaved.
hear. Max autographed my copy of his recent biography of Winston Churchill.
2011 August 9
The fear is back. There are growing signs of a new
financial crisis. The United States is struggling with an enormous budget
deficit and European leaders can't find a way to fix the euro.
governments need to reduce their debts. In the United States, Democrats and
Republicans have been locked in a dispute over whether the deficit should be
removed through tax hikes or cuts in social spending. In Europe, the solvent
governments of the northern countries are refusing to underwrite the debt of
the struggling Mediterranean countries.
The euro was launched as a
fair-weather currency. Eurozone rescue mechanisms are little more than
stopgaps. The rescue efforts are too little and too late. Issuing Eurobonds
could cost the German government an additional €20 billion per year in the
medium term. But Berlin is under pressure as Washington pushes for
The United States has been living above its means for
years. The wrangling over raising the debt ceiling led the country to the
edge of a financial disaster. The planned spending cuts will dampen economic
growth. Given the gridlock in Washington, there are growing calls for the
Fed to print money. It is tempting to pay down the debts with the help of
China holds over a trillion dollars of U.S. debt. The
Chinese economy has been growing fast and is at risk of overheating.
Consumer prices are rising and people are angry. Most of China's exports go
to Europe and the United States. The Chinese government needs to cool the
The world is closer to a crash than at any time since 2008.
The U.S. government must reduce its deficit and European governments cannot
sit out the euro crisis. We need solid state finances.
2011 August 8
Cosmic rays create
antiparticles when they collide with particles in the Earth's atmosphere.
Many of these become trapped inside the Van Allen radiation belts.
University of Rome researchers detected antiprotons in the inner belt using
PAMELA, a cosmic-ray detector attached to a Russian Earth-observation
satellite. PAMELA detected 28 antiprotons trapped in spiraling orbits around
the magnetic field lines sprouting from the Earth's south pole. Billions of
antiprotons are probably trapped in the belt. Future spacecraft could
be powered by the reaction between matter and antimatter.
AR Cool — but no payoff for a century or two, I
2011 August 7
Fear blew $2.5 trillion from the
value of global shares this week. Fear dumped Italian government bonds at
junk prices. And fear took the yield on short-dated U.S. treasury bills
Standard & Poor's downgraded American government debt
from its AAA status. They said the United States could only recover its
fiscal position with tax increases.
We have a mass global flight from
risk. It was the worst week in the financial markets since autumn 2008. But
in 2008 governments could put their national balance sheets behind their
banking systems to restore confidence. Not now. The markets have lost
confidence. They know the costs will be huge.
accepted that Greece might not be able to pay its public debts in full. What
about other countries in the eurozone? Will their creditors be hammered? And
if individuals, companies, and governments have too much debt, what about
the banks who lent the money?
The markets hoped global growth would
let the world pay down its debts. But events have shaken that faith.
Wherever you look, it is an economic horror story. Too many countries have
debts that cannot be repaid without exceptional global growth.
Without growth there are only three ways out. The first is to increase
public borrowing. Private spending is depressed, so we must raise public
debt to push exports. But now there is a veto on growing public debt and
export demand from Asia is slowing.
The two other ways forward are
default or inflation. The world is moving towards these options. In the
United States, the Tea Party has vetoed action by the federal government to
stimulate growth. In Europe, the European Union proposed a European Monetary
Fund but is moving at stately pace. There are no new ideas.
financial system has become a madhouse. There is nobody at the wheel. There
is no adult supervision. The idea that governments get in the way of
otherwise perfectly functioning markets is wrong.
If the options are
default or inflation, then we must accept inflation, but manage it. Britain
should provide a lead. The Bank of England should print money and use it to
The money market is killing the West. We must change it.
AR We need global governance of an
integrated world economy, with consolidated legal and financial
Global organization = GLOBORG
2011 August 6
Set theorist Hugh Woodin, University of California, Berkeley:
is there in a conception of the universe of sets in which very large sets
exist, if you can't even figure out basic properties of small sets? Set
theory is riddled with unsolvability. Almost any question you want to ask is
ultimate L to prove the continuum hypothesis
2011 August 5
NASA today launches a $1 billion Juno satellite on a
mission to Jupiter to study its atmosphere and how the planet formed.
The five-year journey will inject Juno into a highly elliptical orbit
around Jupiter that goes far out into space before returning low over the
north and south poles. Then, in 33 orbits over a year, Juno will photograph
Jupiter's aurora and map its magnetic and gravitational fields.
Jupiter has more than twice the mass of all the other planets in the solar
system combined. About 90% of the mass is hydrogen and 10% helium, with
trace levels of heavier elements. A vast subsurface sea of liquid metallic
hydrogen is more than 25,000 km deep. The core may be solid rock.
electronics aboard Juno are encased in a titanium vault to shield them from
radiation, but even so the spacecraft will sustain serious damage after a
year in orbit. At end of the mission NASA controllers will send Juno
crashing into Jupiter.
video: What lies inside Jupiter
Optical fibers can move data at rates of around 10 Gb/s.
But to make commercially viable photonic chips, engineers need a photonic
diode that lets a signal pass one way only.
engineer Liang Feng and his colleagues have now made a silicon waveguide
with a cross-section of 200 nm by 800 nm that does so. Feng: "It has been
known for a long time that adding layers to the sides of waveguides can
affect forward and backward motion, but it was tricky to calculate the
particular structure that would manipulate the light just as we needed."
The work is a big step toward photonic chips. But it will be a decade or
two before we see photonic chips in commercial products.
Anders Breivik is hostile to Islam. He wants to
reduce world population by half. He rants against feminism, Marxism, and
Western sexual mores. He thinks society should "discourage" women from
full-time careers and blames "current destructive matriarchal policies" for
the ills of Europe.
Societies in demographic decline
can be dangerous. Low birth rates and high immigration produce a stew of
racial fear and resentment that nourishes nationalism, fundamentalism, and a
backlash against multicultural and progressive values.
conservatives with high birthrates increase the danger. Fundamentalists
often have large families, while childless and one-child families are common
in secular communities. A return of patriarchy is all but inevitable if
progressive citizens fail to reproduce.
European socialists call for
the state to provide more child care and so on. Nordic countries that do so
have higher birth rates than more culturally conservative countries. But
they also have higher rates of unmarried mothers and divorce, and their
generosity is hard to finance.
People worldwide are having too few
children to avoid population aging and decline. Muslim countries are no
exception. For better or for worse, reduced fertility is now a condition of
modernity. This century is likely to be dominated by eugenic thinking. Let
us all remember our common humanity.
Breivik cites Longman in his
Once upon a time the world was full of
books. Cheap books, costly books, fat books, thin books, books of
history, books of lies. But then it became simpler to disembody the
books, to upload their words and images into The Cloud. People began to
believe that The Cloud was the answer. The Cloud held all information,
all knowledge, all belief. But then the Great Darkness came and The
Cloud was gone. All information, all knowledge, all belief vanished. But
a story survived that somewhere there were books.
The price of a hardback book can be ten
times the cost of printing and distribution. What you're really paying
for is the "text itself". The publisher pays the author for the right to
sell it and then invests in marketing it. People pay top dollar for a
hardback to cover the costs.
With no printing costs,
ebooks should be cheaper than paper books. But publishers first priced
ebooks about the same as physical books. Amazon then drove down prices.
Now Amazon has accepted an agency model where publishers set the prices.
All is well: ebooks are cheaper than paper books.
Cosmonaut Sergei Volkov
conducted a spacewalk on Wednesday alongside the International Space
AR This is a NASA bid for
a new Earth orbital taxi.
The USAF has 20 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bombers in
service. Total program costs were about $45 billion.
The Bush Legacy
According to Congressional Budget Office
projections, had the nation maintained the fiscal course the Clinton
administration laid out, the national debt would have been retired by
George W. Bush and the GOP Congress that gave him
all he wanted from 2001 to 2007 should be held responsible for the
entire $10.6 trillion national debt. And the $1.3 trillion yearly
deficit they handed to Obama. And the Wall Street crisis and bank
Fears that the U.S. economy was heading
into recession and the ongoing crisis in the eurozone have erased $2
trillion of value from world stock markets in the past week.
Swiss banker Peter Bürgler:
"The market sentiment is on apocalypse
level. Opinions are resurfacing that the U.S. could possibly slide into
London banker Matteo Regesta:
"Equities are weak
and risk aversion is rising. There seems to be no catalyst in sight that
could fade the current market sentiment."
Cameron Hanove: "Traders are fixated on a weakening economy and all the
talk of austerity seems to be driving home a message of lower
Ethan Ilzetzki, LSE
The United States faced not a debt crisis
but a political one. Markets still show an insatiable appetite for U.S.
Federal debt. America's "exorbitant privilege" has been on display in
The debt negotiations exposed deep flaws in the U.S.
government's decision-making process. Reforms are necessary for the
long-run fiscal health of the world's largest economy. This episode has
exposed the dysfunction of the American political system.
2011 August 4
The United States As Failed State
The West used to stand for common goals and values
and the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism.
The United States is no longer a Western
nation. It is governed by a militarist elite, its society is divided, and
the nation is losing its democracy. America has drifted away from the West.
American social disintegration is breathtaking. The richest 1% of
Americans claim 25% of its total income and own 40% of total wealth. The gap
between rich and poor has grown. The greater the disparity between rich and
poor, the less the rich will pay for the poor. Cutting taxes and the state
is the battle cry in a new American civil war.
America is on the path
to banana republic status. Its political culture is broken, the states are
disunited, hate has become routine, and reason has been replaced by
delusion. The elite controls the masses and channels their passions. The Tea
Party is bankrolled by billionaires and promoted by Fox News.
further the United States falls, the more Europe must stand up for the West.
AR How? Europe can't even stand up to
Kingdom Holding Company
The Kingdom Tower
will be 1 kilometer high and will be located in Saudi Arabia. The world's
tallest building will have a Four Seasons hotel, apartments, luxury
condominiums, an observatory, 59 elevators and 12 escalators. Billionaire
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal confirmed the $1 billion deal with the Saudi bin
Laden Group to build Kingdom Tower in the port city of Jeddah.
Islam and Capitalism
Income per capita was much higher in the Muslim Middle
East than in medieval Europe. Sharia was not overtly hostile to economic
progress, but the later Western legal framework was more efficient. Islamic
partnerships proved no match for joint-stock companies. Sharia exempted
money given to charity from taxation, so merchants set up charities as
fronts for commerce. Tax evasion weakened Arab states and the rule of law.
Today, Islamic banks follow the same practices as other banks but
describe them differently. Under sharia, a Muslim who breaks with Islam
becomes an apostate. With no central theological authority, any imam can
deter potential innovators.
The prime enemy of entrepreneurship and
the free market is an abusive government. Despotic regimes have dominated
Arabs for decades. Military regimes control puppet governments that resist
laws limiting state power. Crony capitalism is now the dominant economic
arrangement in the Muslim Mideast.
think the hot Mideast sun hinders business more than Islam.
2011 August 3
Google dominates the information economy. The perfect search engine reads
your mind and produces the answer you want. The perfect advertising engine
shows you the ads you want. Google's business is advertising. Its corporate
mascot is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a terrifying predator.
2011 August 2
The AAA Club
Source: Moody's, Standard & Poor's
AR A shameless illustration of WASP hegemony
2011 August 1
David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace was a collegiate prodigy who
achieved fame as the voice of an era. He committed suicide in 2008, at the
age of 46. The body of work he left behind is precocious, very uneven, at
Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will demonstrates the dramatic
inferiority of analytic philosophy to literature as a way of discussing the
most existentially urgent problems. Wallace had perfect pitch for all kinds
Infinite Jest concerns a movie that is so entertaining it reduces
everyone who sees it to a catatonic stupor. Wallace referred to his first
drafts as "freewriting," and this term perfectly captures the
self-delighting excess of much of Infinite Jest. The novel is itself a
The Pale King is a novel about the IRS. Wallace was grappling with the
idea of authority. But he did not seem to recognize that the problem he had
discovered was Kant's problem, and that his solution was Kant's solution.
The only valid laws are the ones we legislate for ourselves. Wallace had not
yet solved the problem of how to write an interesting book about boredom.
The Pentagon sank tens of millions of dollars into
remote-controlled lightning guns that it hoped would fry insurgent
bombs. Now the remains are being sold on eBay. A buyer discovered that
the "Joint Improvised Explosive Device Neutralizers" (JINs) were kluged
together from third-rate commercial electronics and controlled by open
Wi-Fi signals. San Francisco technologist Cody Oliver: "This is what
they were selling to the government? Holy shit."
The New York Times
The New York Times is one of the world's
greatest newspapers. Its new online subscription service is working.
Last month, the paper announced it had more than doubled the number of
paid digital subscribers to about 250 000. Overall, it has over
1 million digital subscribers.
The fact that the Old Gray Lady is
making progress in finding a sustainable business model is good news for
all of us. Its paywall is reader-friendly. It doesn't put up a firm
blockade, as the Times of London has done. Anyone can read a
few articles each month for free.
After a decade of deficit spending as the global
economic axis tilted towards China, the United States faces a
fundamental shift in its relations with eastern creditor nations.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Americans of living
"like parasites off the global economy" and said on hearing of the deal:
"Thank God that they had enough common sense and responsibility to make
a balanced decision."
"Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytising faith. It has already
spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every
step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms
of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the
civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of
Winston Churchill, 1899
Berwick, Sect. 2.7
Faisal Rafique is a Pakistani and former best friend of Anders Behring
Breivik says Rafique was a formative influence on his
anti-Muslim thought: "Like most Norwegian Pakistanis he felt really torn
between the Norwegian community and the Pakistani community ... he resented
Norwegians and the Norwegian society ... because it represented the exact
opposite of Islamic ways. ... Since then he and his Muslim friends have beaten
and harassed several ethnic Norwegians."
Rafique: "I have not
met him for the last ten years and I did not imagine he would do that."
Paul Ray, the former EDL activist and leader of a revived
Knights Templar movement, concedes that his
Breivik and his manifesto:
"I am being implicated as his mentor. I definitely could have been his
inspiration. It looks like that. He has given me a platform and a profile.
But what he did was pure evil."
According to Norwegian national myth, the
paperclip was invented by a Norwegian, Johan Vaaler, in 1901. When occupying
Nazi banned the wearing of national or royal insignia, students at Oslo
University began attaching paperclips to their lapels or button holes. The
humble paperclip became a symbol of national unity. Anyone found wearing a
paperclip was liable to immediate arrest.
Police said Breivik told them he had
planned and carried out the attacks alone but investigators continued
to think he might be part of a broader network.
Norwegian Police University College professor Tore Bjørgo: "He might be
involved with like-minded people, but it seems like he was operating
completely alone. He seems to be an adherent to the 'leaderless resistance'
doctrine, and that makes things like this very difficult to detect."
In his online manifesto, the authenticity of which was confirmed by his
lawyer, Breivik wrote: "Muslims must be considered wild animals". He added:
"Do not blame the wild animals but rather the multiculturalist ... traitors
who allowed these animals to enter our lands."
Norwegian Conservative politician: "He's the first
anti-Islamic terrorist ... It's a
pan-European, anti-Islamic, anti-elitist movement."
The New York Times
"He has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his
head they were necessary. He wanted a change in society and, from his
perspective, he needed to force through a revolution. He wished to attack
society and the structure of society."
The eurozone leaders have improved Greek debt
sustainability, taken measures to stop the risk of contagion, and committed
to improve eurozone crisis management. They agreed on a further €109 billion
bailout for Greece and to extend loan repayment periods and cut interest
rates. They also agreed that all the euro area member states will strictly
adhere to the agreed fiscal targets.
The eurozone can be saved if the leaders
of Germany, Austria, Finland, and the Netherlands go for fiscal union and
withdraw from EMU. The Greco-Latin bloc can inherit the residual euro and
the institutions of monetary union.
The Latin euro would fall
sharply, but its states could hope to grow out of debt traps. The
alternative is to impose austerity and debt deflation without relief until
capital flight forces EMU exit.
HSBC guesses the peripheral euro
(EUP) would crash to $0.65 against the dollar and the core euro (EUC) surge
2011 July 31
Within the next three years, the Taiwanese
electronics company Foxconn plans to introduce a million new industrial
robots on its production lines. Foxconn currently employs some 1.2 million
people, a million of them in China.
The company manufactures products
for such companies as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell. The clients
outsource their production to Foxconn because of its low labor costs. But in
2010 the company hit the headlines for a series of employee suicides blamed
on long hours, high pressure, harsh discipline, and low pay. Foxconn made
changes. Now its workers can earn up to €240 per month. The robots are
intended to reduce costs.
GLOBORG here we come.
2011 July 30
European Right Allies With Israel
Right-wing populist groups and parties across
Europe have begun establishing relations with politicians in Israel.
The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ)
political message focuses on extreme skepticism of Muslim immigration. The
party is convinced that Europe's future is threatened by high Muslim birth
rates and certain that the Christian West must defend itself from Islam.
FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache: "We are seeing great revolutions
taking place in the Middle East. But one can't be totally sure that other
interests aren't behind them and that, in the end, we might see Islamist
theocracies surrounding Israel and in Europe's backyard."
"We have to warn that we are experiencing the Islamification of Europe. We
don't want to become an Islamic society. ... Israel is in danger of being
destroyed. Were that to happen, it would also result in Europe losing its
Ayoob Kara, a parliamentarian with Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party: "I am looking for ways to lessen
the Islamic influence in the world. I believe that is the true Nazism in
this world. I am the partner of everyone who believes in the existence of
Israeli air force colonel and former member of the Knesset
Eliezer Cohen: "I'm too old for bullshitting. We hope the right wing wins
out in Europe."
AR This is a natural
marriage. Islamists will scoff, but the alliance of Israel with Chimerica
plus a righteous Europe is the unbeatable core of
2011 July 29
What is it like to be a bat? Thomas Nagel, New York
there is no way of knowing what it is like for a bat to feel like a bat.
That is the conundrum of consciousness.
Some neuroscientists think that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain and that once
we fully understand the intricate workings of neuronal activity,
consciousness will be laid bare. Various brain areas have been found to be
active when we are conscious of something and quiet when we are not.
Giuilio Tononi, University of Wisconsin-Madison, says consciousness is the
outcome of how complex matter, including the brain, integrates information.
Bernard Baars, Neuroscience Institute, San Diego, California, says most
non-conscious experiences are processed in specialised local regions of the
brain such as the visual cortex. We only become conscious of this activity
when the information is broadcast to a network of neurons called the global
Anil Seth, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK: "Does
global workspace theory really explain consciousness, or just the ability to
report about consciousness?"
Thomas Metzinger, Johannes Gutenberg
University, Mainz, Germany: "it is extremely unlikely that there would be
any form of self-consciousness after the physical brain decays."
philosophers doubt that explaining consciousness will be that simple. David
Chalmers, Australian National University, points to the "hard problem" of consciousness. What is it like to
be a bat?
Iraq, 2008 — U.S. General David Petraeus gets a phone
text message: "General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani,
control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and
Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member.
The individual who's going to replace him is a Quds Force member."
Suleimani's reputation has increased in the past three years. His journey to
supremacy in Iraq began with the 1979 revolution in Iran. In 2002, he was appointed
to command the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards. The Quds Force
protects the revolution and now exports its goals to other parts of the
Iraq's former state security minister, Sharwan
al-Waeli, was a known ally of Iran. He denied Iran's role in Iraq until he
was asked when Suleimani last came to the Green Zone in the heart of
Baghdad. Al-Waeli trembled. "You mean Sayed Qassem Suleimani," he said,
giving Suleimani an Arabic honorific reserved for the most esteemed of men.
He refused to elaborate.
A senior Iraqi MP in Prime Minister Nour
al-Maliki's inner circle who regularly meets Suleimani in Iran said the
general is "softly spoken and reasonable, very polite. He is simple when you
talk to him. You would not know how powerful he is without knowing his
background. His power is absolute and no one can challenge this."
Iraq's former national security minister, Mowaffak al-Rubaie: "He is the
most powerful man in Iraq without question."
Iraq has become a protectorate of Iran. Thanks, Bush 43.
next target: the Gulf States. Buy shares in
2011 July 28
Hopkins Architects has cut the time it took to
install bathrooms in a new building by a third compared with conventional
bathrooms. With their help, Rice University in Houston took only 18 months
to build two new student residences containing 108 double bedrooms.
The construction of normal bathrooms involves a series of
steps for tiling, plumbing, shelving, and lighting that require custom
handwork and must be completed serially.
Hopkins designed a
prefabricated bathroom pod with integrated shelving. Off Site Solutions in
the UK molded the pod structures out of fiberglass. The floors and walls
were shipped to New Jersey and fitted with standard basins, toilets,
showers, and light fittings. The assemblies were trucked to Houston and
lifted by crane into the residences. The final plumbing and electrical
connections completed the job.
recall such pods from Japan in 1981. I want a new one now.
2011 July 27
MIT Technology Review
Terrapower, a startup funded
in part by Nathan Myhrvold and Bill Gates, is moving closer to building a
new type of nuclear reactor called a traveling wave reactor that runs on
In a traveling wave reactor, a small amount of
uranium 235 is used to start up the reactor. The neutrons the reactor
produces then convert uranium 238 into plutonium 239, which generates the
nuclear power. Terrapower says there's enough uranium 238 to power the world
for a million years.
In the new design, the reactions occur
near the reactor's center. As the innermost fuel rods are used up, a robot
takes them out of the center and moves them to the periphery. The other rods
are then shuffled toward the center to take the place of the spent fuel.
Terrapower is working on new materials that can withstand use in the
reactor core for decades at a time. The steel cladding that contains the
fuel in the fuel rods must survive exposure to decades of radiation. The
company is using computer models to anticipate how currently available
materials would change over time.
The reactor is inherently safe
because it has a passive cooling system to prevent a meltdown. The system
using molten sodium metal as coolant. Sodium takes much longer to boil than
water, but it reacts violently when exposed to air or water.
NATO armed forces have failed twice now to win a
war. American, British, French, and other foreign troops are preparing to
withdraw from a combat role in Afghanistan, where they spent billions failing to
counter an insurgency. Meanwhile, in Libya, the United States, Britain, and
France appear to be ready to give up a fight in which they
have conducted more than 6,000 strikes.
These were both
politically hamstrung wars with absurd rules of engagement. If NATO forces
fight, they should have both a clear and achievable strategic goal and
tactical freedom to execute.
2011 July 26
Right Against Jihad
Anders Behring Breivik misunderstood core elements
of the RAJ ideology. Bombs and mass murder are not among the tools to use in
the effort to free the Western world from Muslims, multiculturalists, and
Marxists, say RAJ bloggers. Nationalists and Christians, says one, do not
murder children, "certainly not children of their own race."
Breivik is not the sole author of the manifesto
"2083 - A European Declaration of Independence" calling for a crusade
against Islam in Europe. He copied and pasted hundreds of pages from other
right-wing bloggers. Dozens of chapters were published on blogs like Gates
of Vienna (GoV) and The Brussels Journal, two of his main sources. Breivik
claimed to follow the "Viennese school of thought" (GoV).
provide a window into the RAJ scene: pro-Western, pro-American and
pro-Israel, but extremely anti-Muslim, aggressively Christian, and hostile
to liberals, leftists, multiculturalists, and internationalists. It detests
the Nazis but is sympathetic to the U.S. Tea Party movement, to the populist
Freedom Party of Austria, to the football fan group known as the Casuals,
and to the anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL).
RAJ activists have
cooperated with the Jewish Defense League (JDL). The JDL has even joined EDL
demonstrations. Islam is the enemy. A central RAJ tenet is that Muslims are
quietly taking over Europe with a demographic Jihad. The RAJ scene is
growing rapidly and wants to establish a respectable presence throughout
Europe. Members are striving for attention in the media, on the streets, and
Breivik invested years in planning his murders. In
his manifesto he wrote: "Creating this compendium has personally cost me a
total of €317,000 ... All that, however, is barely noticeable compared to
the sacrifices made in relation to the distribution of this book, the actual
marketing operation." The murder of 76 people was a "marketing operation."
AR ABB has performed the service of
recasting the appalling Jihadi worldview of hatred and conquest in a Nordic
mould. Now, with the help of his documentation, members of the political
classes can better understand the enemy and prepare Europe against a war of
"patriots" versus immigrants before it's too late.
My edition of Book 1 of the
2011 July 25
Anders Breivik vows to say in court in Oslo why he
thinks he has committed no crime. His lawyer said his client felt that "what
he has done does not deserve punishment" and that he wants an open hearing
"to explain himself".
British police officer will liaise with
Norwegian investigators after Breivik claimed membership of a secret society
set up in London in 2002 to fight an anti-Muslim crusade. From his
"We, the free indigenous peoples of Europe, hereby declare
a pre-emptive war on all cultural Marxist/multiculturalist elites of Western
Europe ... We are in the process of flagging every single multiculturalist
traitor in Western Europe. You will be punished for your treasonous acts
against Europe and Europeans."
ABB has been described as a fundamentalist Christian. His ideology has
nothing to do with Christianity but is based on an atavistic horror of
Muslims and a loathing of leftists and liberals.
writes that Islam threatens the survival of Europe through what he calls
"demographic Jihad" by which Muslims, who cannot live at peace with their
neighbours, are conquering Europe.
He says the elite have sold out to
"Marxists" who control the universities, the mainstream media, and
most political parties.
He links these two grand conspiracies in
the "Eurabia" theory, which holds that EU bureaucrats have struck a secret
deal to hand over Europe to Islam in exchange for oil.
Mad, Bad, and
Anders Breivik is mad. His manifesto is a preposterous document, with its
plan to revive the ancient order of the Knights Templar and liberate Europe of
immigrants by 2083.
He has much in common with some recent Islamic
suicide bombers. He is disturbed by female emancipation, and thinks women
would be better off in the home. He seems to be pretty down on
homosexuality. And he believes that his own religious leaders are deeply
decadent and have deviated from orthodoxy.
People will say that we
are looking at the mirror image of an Islamic terrorist. But I don't think
that ideology is really at the heart of the problem. An acquaintance of his
from Norway, a fellow called Ulav Andersson, said Breivik "didn't seem opinionated at all". He just became
chippy and irritable when some girl he had a crush on
jilted him in favour of a man of Pakistani origin.
killed in the name of Christianity but we don't blame "Christendom". It was
all about him, and his feeling of inadequacy in relation to the female sex.
The same point can be made (and has been made) about so many of the young
Muslim terrorists. Breivik was essentially a narcissist and egomaniac who
could not cope with being snubbed.
2011 July 24
This week's Economist introduces me to the Norwegian concept of the madness
of great men, a.k.a. stormannsgalskap. I presume it does not apply in this
Anders Behring Breivik, the
fundamentalist Christian charged with attacks in Oslo that killed at least
92 people, apparently posted a manifesto to the web hours before the
attacks, under the English name Andrew Berwick.
2083: A European Declaration of
By Andrew Berwick, London, 2011
covers the following main topics:
1 The rise of cultural
Marxism/multiculturalism in Western Europe
2 Why the Islamisation of
Western Europe began
3 The current state of the Western European
4 Solutions for Western Europe and how to move forward
Solutions and strategies for all of the political fronts
2011 July 23
New title and subtitle for my autobiography:
A TRUE STORY OF WAR AND PEACE, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT,
AND LIFE, THE
UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING
2011 July 22
British Libel Law
The News of the World hacking scandal has set off a
firestorm. But the journalists could blame the British legal system.
Libel is defined under British law as "the publication of a statement which
tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of
society generally". Anyone of any nationality can sue in British courts if
they can prove they have a reputation to defend in the UK. It doesn't matter
how many people actually read the statement or how briefly it is public.
London has become the libel capital of the world as rich plaintiffs win fat
expect British tabloids to think twice before publishing their sleaze. But
the exact opposite has happened. Defamation laws in the UK encourage
reporters to engage in sneaky tactics so they can prove their claims if
By contrast, the U.S. First Amendment gives the media the
right to publish whatever it sees fit. The burden of proof rests with the
plaintiff, who must demonstrate that a story was factually wrong and that it
sullied his or her reputation. In Britain, the burden of proof lies with the
defendant. The journalist must prove the allegations are true. The
plaintiffs don't even have to prove their reputations have been damaged.
Journalists are less concerned with the little guy. It costs upwards of
half a million dollars to bring a libel case to court.
AR Memo to Brits:
Tear down this law!
2011 July 21
collaboration between Princeton University and Lockheed Martin aims to
produce photonic neurons that work a billion times faster than neurons in
human brains. The new technology could lead to networks that make ultrafast
decisions in critical situations or process huge amounts of data at high
Photonic computers would be much faster than electronic
ones. In conventional fiber-optic systems, photons carry information
over long distances but hand over the bits to electrons for logic
processing. Photonic neuronets would process the photons directly. Engineers
will use clues from human brains to design the networks.
AR I've been looking forward to photonic
neuronets for 20 years.
Many popular quantum paradoxes stem from a confusion between
mathematical formalism and physics. The paradoxes go away once a different
formalism is used. Modern developments make quantum mechanics less
problematic than it may seem.
2011 July 20
42 years ago today, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil
Armstrong stepped onto the Moon: "A small step for a man, a giant leap for
astronaut Buzz Aldrin left this bootprint.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft is in orbit around the asteroid
This NASA image, taken from a distance of 15,000 km, has
a resolution of 1.4 km. Vesta is 530 km across and is the second most
massive asteroid in the solar system, after Ceres. Dawn's next destination
is Ceres, which has a diameter of
about 950 km and is classified as a dwarf planet.
2011 July 19
Human rights are the rights humans are due simply by
virtue of being human. Aristotelian virtue and natural justice or the
Kantian categorical imperative offer philosophical bases for morality.
Theories of human needs and human agency provide analytical foundations for
the idea of human rights.
Hilary Putnam: "Every human being should
experience him/herself as commanded to be available to the neediness, the
suffering, the vulnerability of the other person."
In a debate on
human rights, the authority that commands us on the religious side is God,
while on the secular side it is the human. A turn to the human is no
commandment at all. The turn to God puts our actions under his command.
There is no meaning to human rights under divine commandment.
"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe,
the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above
me and the moral law within me."
2011 July 18
The Tree of Life
Geoffrey O'Brien, The New York Review of Books
seems determined to turn narrative movies into vehicles for posing
unanswerable metaphysical questions. Into the melancholy tale of boy growing
up in a family in Texas, Malick has managed to incorporate the creation of
the universe, the origins of life on earth, the age of dinosaurs, and the
prospect of future dissolution, with musical accompaniment by Berlioz's
The natural world competes
with human actors for screen presence. The camera is constantly in motion
finding out unexpected pathways, moving among swamps and foliage with
desperate freedom. Hyperactive editing finds multiple ways to divide scenes
into component fragments, to mix up the particles of the world into fresh
combinations, to distend or collapse the sense of duration as needed. The
Tree of Life was three years in the cutting room.
the contemporary world by the corporate towers of Houston, Texas. The towers
are the habitat of Sean Penn. The movie can be taken as his memory drama,
hinging on the death of a younger brother at nineteen. The remembered grief
is conveyed in sharp disjunctive fragments. As in all that follows, the
effect is of seeing a memory staged, indelible in the realism of its details
but edited and compressed over time.
The time remembered is the 1950s
in Waco, Texas. The story concerns the early life of a boy with two
brothers, a devoted but unavoidably scary father, and an adored mother. The
father, played by Brad Pitt, is a complex memory-portrait put together out
of broken slivers. He is a frustrated musician and we hear him playing
Bach's Toccata and Fugue in G Minor. Jessica Chastain, as the mother, is an
almost wordless presence, a sensual font of unlimited love and emotional
Scenes of childhood are played in brief microscopic clips
that merge into dream and distorted recollection. The boy Jack lives through
the early storms of rage and guilt and desire with the foreboding of someone
to whom something utterly strange and unheard of is happening. This kind of
intense evocation of the terrors of childhood is more commonly found in
horror movies, but here Malick proposes the existential dread of cosmology.
The Tree of Life is an audacious and magnificent movie.
AR Great movie: I saw it July 11 in
"Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some
control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware
enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you
construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this
kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."
David Foster Wallace
According to the Google Book Project, throughout modern
history, nearly 130 million book titles have been published. The exact
number of books, excluding editions with the same text, counted by Google as
of August 2010 was 128 864 880.
Over 45 000 fiction books were
published in the United States in 2009.
On average, about 16% of U.S. books published each year are
U.S. Accuses Iran
Radio Free Europe
The U.S. Treasury says Iran is
a "critical transit point for funding to support Al-Qaeda's activities in
Afghanistan and Pakistan" and says it has uncovered a network that "serves
as the core pipeline through which Al-Qaeda moves money, facilitators, and
operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia."
Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen: "By
exposing Iran's secret deal with Al-Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and
operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of
Iran's unmatched support for terrorism."
The Society of Americans for National Existence founder David Yerushalmi
is hard on Islam:
"Islam was born in
violence; it will die that way. Any wish to the contrary is sheer
Pollyannaism. The same way the post World War II German youth were taught by
their German teachers and political leaders to despise the fascism of their
fathers, with strict laws extant still today restricting even speech that
casts doubt on the Holocaust, so too must the Muslim youth be taught from
the cradle to reject the religion of their forebears."
New Far Right
Experts say ABB typifies a new breed of
conservative extremists who have risen across Europe. A senior Norwegian
Conservative politician: "He’s representative of a new type of
rightwing extremism. Rather than the old neo-Nazis they are pro-Israel and
driven by radical anti-Islam."
Breivik frequently lauds
fringe groups in his manifesto, including Stop Islamisation of America and
Stop Islamisation of Europe, websites such as JihadWatch and Gates of
Vienna, and the True Finns. Breivik also talks of his links to and
friendship with members of the UK's English Defence League.
manifesto: "The first raindrop marks the coming of a great and unstoppable
cultural conservative tidal wave. This tidal wave will release western
Europe of cultural Marxism and will result in the banishment of Islam for
the third time. Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution,
for we will soon dine in the kingdom of heaven."
Anders Behring Breivik
Yesterday's shambolic and panicky eurozone summit
reveals terrifying parallels with the situation that prevailed 80 years ago.
The faith of leading European politicians and bankers in monetary union is
irrational. The euro bears comparison to the gold standard. The only
conceivable salvation for the eurozone is to impose greater fiscal
integration among member states.
let's do it.
Eurozone finance ministers agree that
Greece's economy is on the verge of collapse.
German Finance Ministry officials are analyzing ways to pare
down Greece's debt burden. The European Financial Stability
Facility could give Greece the money it needs to buy back its
own bonds from banks and insurance companies. Since its bonds
are currently trading at less than half their nominal value,
this would be a good deal for Greece.
Employees of the EU
and the Institute of International Finance are discussing a
restructuring of Greek debt.
Japan 3 — USA 1
2011 July 17
The first browsers came online 20 years ago this
August. The founding engineers worked for the U.S. Department of Defense.
But the internet was a serious place for doing business. Venture capitalists
found the internet appealing. Their disregard for traditional financial
performance led to the dot-com bubble.
Most internet enterprises had
to build their business around advertising, which meant being subject to the
trends of that industry, the most important of which is personalization.
Online ads are tailored to the interests of a given user. The logical end of
this ever-increasing personalization is of each user having his or her own
online experience. This is a far cry from the early vision of the internet
as a communal space.
Many internet users think they enjoy free access
to cool services, but in reality, they are paying for that access with their
privacy. Much of our information-sharing seems trivial, but it can generate
insights about individuals and groups that are deeply interesting to most
marketers and intelligence agencies. Search engines and social networking
sites hold as much power today as newspapers and radio stations did three
The utopian vision of the internet as a shared space to
maximize communal welfare is a good template to work from. We still have
some privacy left and internet companies can still be swayed by smart
regulation. But we need a fundamental reconsideration of the internet's
civic and aesthetic dimensions.
2011 July 16
Writers write books for reasons that usually have a little to do with money
and not as much to do with masochism as you might think. There is real
satisfaction in a story deeply told, a case richly argued, a puzzle
meticulously untangled. When people say they love writing, they usually mean
they love having written.
2011 July 15
A specter is haunting Germany. It's called
eco-dictatorship. The greatest eco-sacrifice for a rich German today may be
agreeing to wait a year for delivery of a 4.5-liter Porsche Cayenne SUV —
but such idiocy cannot go on.
Global energy consumption rose by 5.6%
in 2010 and emissions that affect the climate by slightly more. Oil
consumption is projected to grow by another third over 2005 levels by 2030.
The transformation of durable consumer goods into throwaway goods
accelerates and the service life of electronic devices keeps shrinking. Some
40% of food in the United States and 30% in Europe is now thrown away before
Anyone who wants to scale back consumer culture is told
that people in emerging economies cannot be denied our standard of living.
This response is a transparent effort to legitimize our lifestyle.
Protecting privilege has become the main purpose of political activity. A
dictatorship of the present at the expense of the future is not a human
Right: Parade, Minsk, July 3
Far right: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko
The end of the
nigh as thousands protest the Belarusian economic crisis and
are met with violence.
The Origins of Political Order
By Francis Fukuyama
by Adam Kirsch
Darwin has replaced Hegel as
Fukuyama's guide to politics. In his first book, he countered
Hobbes with Hegel: the Hobbesian notion that society is grounded
in man's fear of violent death was less plausible than the
Hegelian view that society arises from man's need to earn
recognition from his fellows by dominating them. In the new
book, he dismisses Hobbes on Darwinian grounds: "Human
sociability is ... hardwired into human nature."
Fukuyama: "In a very long historical perspective, ... the forms
of political organization employed by different groups of human
beings have varied, and those forms that were more successful
... displaced those that were less successful. ... Strict
cultural relativism is at odds with the implications of
2011 July 14
Will Germans Destroy the Eurozone?
The economic crisis in Greece is the biggest
thing in Europe since the Balkan wars. The markets are pricing Greek
government debt as if it had already defaulted. The 2008 crisis exposed
Greece as having an economy based on faked data and cheap credit. The cheap
credit dried up. Greece couldn't pay its debts.
The new plan is for Greece to borrow another €120 billion, the debt to
be rolled over, the government to introduce further austerity measures and
privatizations, and rich Greeks to start paying their taxes. The Greeks are
being lent money so they can work very hard for lower wages and higher taxes
in order to pay it back at great cost. French and German banks hold most of
The eurozone needs a more robust institutional structure.
The governments established a €750 billion financial stability facility in
2010, but fiscal union and political structures to match the monetary ones
are still distant. As for crisis planning, we'll see. If Greece said it was
going to leave the euro, every Greek adult would run to the nearest bank and
withdraw all their money. That would break every bank in Greece. The
government would have no choice but to declare all its debts void.
German interests and PIGS interests are not in alignment. PIGS citizens will
spend ten years sweating to earn the tax money to pay back the German banks
whose lending fueled their bubbles. This system is sustainable only if
German taxpayers are willing to pay for the busts and bailouts that ensue.
But Germans are asking why Germans should work until 69 to fund the
retirement of Greek public-sector workers who (supposedly) knock off at 55.
It's a good question.
The new German attitude could destroy the
eurozone. If European monetary policy is run according to German interests,
huge structural imbalances will accumulate. Germany has to put the broader
European interest on the same level as its own national interest, or the
euro is toast.
2011 July 13
The sense of crisis in the euro area is building.
The rescues of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal were all designed to buy time
and prevent contagion spreading to Italy and Spain. That strategy has
failed. Now there are three main possibilities:
2 The ECB buys more bonds.
3 A form of fiscal union.
AR My vote: 3
Austrian driver Niko Alm has won the right to be
shown on his driving license wearing a pasta strainer on his
head. After three years of struggle, a psychologist passed him
fit to drive. Alm is a pastafarian, a member of the Church of
the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Left: AR on Neckar boat
Middle: Neckar view, return
Above: Lady on Neckar boat
From Athens to Rome
Italy pays a premium to borrow over
German debt of 3%, a euro-era high, and is €1.6 trillion in
debt. European banks with holdings of Greek bonds demanded that
the European Union commit to buy back the debt. The IIF proposed
vastly expanding the scope of the Greek bailout with billions in
taxpayer money to buy up Greek bonds at a discount.
AR What a way to run an empire. Europe needs
fiscal discipline, imposed if necessary.
Birmingham, Home of Metal
2011-06-18 — 2011-09-25
Brummies are celebrating a summer of events titled
of Metal in the city and
the surrounding Black Country.
The bill includes an exhibition
of metal memorabilia at the
Pakistani Aid Cut
The New York Times
Obama administration is suspending or canceling about $800
million in military aid and equipment to the Pakistani military.
the cuts. Demand that Pakistan abandons nuclear
weapons. Let the jihadis bloom. Then bomb them.
A swap station
Polish War Debts
Poland’s postwar communist
regime simply retained and nationalized most property taken by
the Nazis. The total value of this expropriated property today
is about $60 billion. The Polish government has repeatedly
promised to address the issue. Poland must give back what was
taken under Nazism, kept under communism, what was promised and
Property is theft, said Karl Marx. What rich people in Poland
appropriated in the decades and centuries before the war was
theirs, then, but postwar governments in effect imposed heavy inheritance
taxes. You might as well say half of Poland belongs to Germany,
who lost it only because a bunch of thugs hijacked the machinery
of state for a few years. Water under the bridge, Ben. Relax.
Jack Hill for The Times
the road between Ajdabiya and Brega
The Libyan revolution is backed by the
world's most sophisticated air powers but the conflict on the
ground is still fought using ancient weapons and ammunition.
Raban Zanussi, 27, a rebel on the front line between
Ajdabiya and Brega, holds up his rifle: "It's a British Lee
Enfield, passed down to me by my grandfather. It's 200% better
than a Kalashnikov and accurate up to 300 yards. But I've only
got a tin of 50 rounds, so I don't use it for joking." He took a
bullet from the magazine. It is stamped "GB 1940".
2011 July 12
Feynman visualized the world with pictures rather than with equations. Other
physicists describe the laws of nature with equations. Feynman skipped the
equations and wrote down the solutions directly, using his pictures as a
guide. Skipping the equations was his greatest contribution to science.
Feynman had the idea that
the world has two layers, a classical layer and a quantum layer. Classical
means that things are ordinary. Quantum means that things are weird. We live
in the classical layer. The pictures that Feynman invented to describe the
world are classical pictures of objects moving in the classical layer. Each
picture represents a possible history of the classical layer. But the real
world of atoms and particles belongs to the quantum layer, which we cannot
The primary difference between the classical layer
and the quantum layer is that the classical layer deals with facts and the
quantum layer deals with probabilities. In situations where classical laws
are valid, we can predict the future by observing the past. In situations
where quantum laws are valid, we can observe the past but we cannot predict
the future. The Feynman pictures only allow us to calculate the
probabilities that various alternative futures may happen.
quantum layer is related to the classical layer in two ways. First, the
state of the quantum layer is a combination of every possible history of the
classical layer leading up to that state. Each possible classical history is
given a quantum amplitude. Second, the quantum amplitude is obtained from
the picture of that classical history by following a simple set of rules.
The rules are pictorial. The hard part is to add up the sum over histories
correctly. Feynman showed that this view of the quantum world allows an
exact description of quantum processes in situations where earlier versions
of quantum theory had broken down.
Feynman tried to find new laws of
nature, but the result of his efforts was in the end to consolidate the
existing laws in a new structure. He said nature tells us that both the
quantum world and the classical world exist and are real. We do not
understand precisely how they fit together.
2011 July 11
Drugs and the Meaning of Life
Drugs are a means of altering consciousness. I can
think of no political right more fundamental than the right to peacefully
steward the contents of one's own consciousness. The war on drugs should
never have been waged.
biologically active compounds are drugs and all psychoactive drugs modulate
the neurochemistry of the brain. Among psychoactive drugs, we should
distinguish psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD from narcotics like tobacco
and alcohol. Psychedelics are tools of insight. Most of them work through
the serotonin system in the brain, leading to increased neuronal activity in
prefrontal cortex. Psychedelics seem to put the material basis of mental and
spiritual life beyond doubt.
Psychedelics are a uniquely potent means
of altering consciousness. It is impossible to communicate the profundity of
psychedelic states to those who have never had such experiences themselves.
The guarantee of profound effect is what separates psychedelics from every
other method of spiritual inquiry. Ingesting a powerful dose of a
psychedelic drug is like strapping oneself to a rocket without a guidance
system. One might go somewhere worth going or one might be hurled into
states of mind that resemble psychosis.
I have visited both extremes
on the psychedelic continuum. The positive experiences were more sublime
than I could have ever imagined or than I can now faithfully recall. People
come away from such experiences with a sense that our conventional states of
consciousness obscure and truncate insights and emotions that are sacred.
But my bad trips were the most harrowing hours I have ever suffered. At both
ends of the continuum, time dilates in ways that cannot be described.
Drugs like LSD are risky. Meditation can open the mind to similar
conscious states less haphazardly.
AR Sam has a good crusade here. This is more
exciting than his moral landscape ideas
and more sober than his militant
2011 July 10
A Free Press
One by one the veils are lifted to
reveal the intimate parts of the British body politic. If it were a
striptease, the customers would be fleeing in disgust. First, it was the
financial establishment, when the credit markets crunched in 2008. Then it
was members of parliament, whose frequently grotesque personal expenses were
suddenly stripped bare. This time it is journalism. Events at the News of
the World have confirmed the popular view that your average reporter would
sell his own grandmother for a front-page exclusive.
April I bugged a conversation
with Paul McMullan, one of two hacks who blew the whistle on phone-hacking
at NoW under its former editor Andy Coulson:
PM Coulson knew all
about it and regularly ordered it. ...
HG So they all knew?
PM Cameron must have known ...
HG But don't
you think that all these prime ministers ... don't want to upset Murdoch?
PM ... it's a policeman ringing up a tabloid reporter and asking him for ten
grand ... the police don't particularly want to investigate.
HG But a
mobile phone ... it'd be all right to tap that?
not sure about that. ...
HG But celebrities you would justify because they're rich?
PM If you
don't like it, you've just got to get off the stage.
2011 July 9
Daniel H. Wilson
In the not-too-distant future,
robots have made our lives a lot easier: they help clean our kitchens, drive
our cars, and fight our wars — until they are turned into efficient
murderers by a sentient artificial intelligence buried miles below the
surface of Alaska. Robopocalypse is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that makes
a strong case that mindless fun can also be wildly inventive. The war is
told as an oral history, assembled from interviews, security camera footage,
and first- and secondhand testimonies, similar to Max Brooks' zombie epic World War Z.
"A brilliantly conceived thriller that
grip your imagination from the first word to the last, on a wild rip you
won't soon forget. What a read ... unlike anything I've read before."
"My goal for
Robopocalypse is to depict a terrifying, hyper-realistic future in which our
familiar technology has run amuck and then evolved. Toward that end, I found
inspiration and guidance by drawing on real-world robotics research."
AR Bang go
GLOBORG — I go back to square one!
2011 July 8
Image credit: NASA TV
Atlantis lifts off for
the final space shuttle mission. The NASA
space shuttle era began with the first launch on April 12, 1981.
2011 July 6
Next month, Better Place will begin selling
electric cars in Israel. The company claims to have solved the biggest
challenge to the widespread adoption of electric cars: the batteries are
heavy and recharging them takes hours.
Better Place will sell an
electric car made by Renault with a range of 100 miles on a charge. For
longer trips, the company provides swap stations where a robot system swaps
out a depleted battery for a full one in five minutes.
will have 40 swap stations in Israel by the end of 2011 and a total of 55
soon after. It has also set up about a thousand charging stations, enough
Better Place offers a package including a car and three
years of driving for $46,000. Other packages include monthly subscription
fees. The company says its waiting list and tentative fleet orders cover
nearly half the car market for Israel.
Better Place is based in
California and was founded in 2007 by former SAP director Shai Agassi.
2011 July 5
America and Europe
Gideon Rachman, Financial Times
The debt problems in the United States and the European Union reveal a
deeper crisis of the West.
On both sides of the Atlantic, much of the
economic growth leading up to 2008 was driven by a boom in credit. In the
United States it was homeowners and in Europe it was entire countries that
borrowed unsustainably. The crash of 2008 triggered a huge rise in public
debts. On both sides of the Atlantic, the economic crisis is polarizing
For many years, elites on either side of the Atlantic were
convinced that economically, politically, and strategically, the United
States and Europe were Mars and Venus. Yet both sides share mounting debt, a
weak economy, an increasingly expensive welfare state, fear for the future,
and political gridlock.
There are still differences. The dollar has a
history but the euro is new. The political division in the European system
is between nations, in the United States between parties. In Europe, tax
rises are seen as part of a solution. In America, opposition to tax
increases is central.
Americans and Europeans have been slow to see
the depth of the crisis. Chinese critics of the West see it clearly.
AR The crisis of capitalism is
a chronic condition. Too much borrowing and lending makes nonsense of the
bean counting. Interest levels, time discounting, risk assessment, financial
models, CDOs — all this cooking of the books soon turns the beans to soup.
The secret of survival is to enjoy the soup, swallow the bad debt, and start
again with fresh beans.
Globalization is the answer. We enrich China
and level the playing field, then grow beans in Europe and America with
robots for a 24/7 follow-the-sun GO dominion (where GO = U Gn for all n) that organizes Planet Earth into a new form of life:
2011 July 4
Version 3 done, V4 started
2011 July 3
Deutschland ist bereit, Leopard-Kampfpanzer an Saudi-Arabien zu
SPIEGEL billigte der Bundessicherheitsrat letze Woche
grundsätzlich den Export. Die Saudis haben Interesse an mehr als 200 Stück
auf Basis der neuesten Leopard-Variante, dem Typ 2A7+.
AR Saudis vs. Iran: Gleich in
Atomkraft und Elektroautos investieren! Oder mindestens die russische
2011 July 1
Spray-on Solar Cells
A research team at the University of Toronto
has created the first two-layer solar cell made of quantum dots. The dots
can be tuned to absorb different parts of the solar spectrum by varying
their size and they can be sprayed onto surfaces. By combining two different
types of quantum dots, the cells can be more efficient.
two-layer cell, one layer of quantum dots is tuned to capture visible light
and the other to capture infrared light. A transition layer made up of four
films of transparent metal oxides minimizes electrical resistance between
the layers and allows light to pass through them to the bottom cell.
The present cell has an efficiency of 4.2%. The team's goal is to exceed 10%
efficiency within five years.
Efficient Solar Cells
The most efficient solar cells typically have
several layers of semiconductor materials, each tuned to convert different
colors of light into electricity. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National
Lab have now made a single semiconductor that performs almost the same job.
In theory, the material could convert nearly half of the energy in sunlight
into electricity, and cheaply.
semiconductor material is based on gallium arsenide. The researchers
modified it so that the energy from more than one photon is used to free an
electron. Replacing some of the arsenic atoms in the material with nitrogen
atoms creates regions that can hold electrons that have absorbed some energy
from low-energy photons while they wait for more energy.
prototype solar cell is still relatively inefficient. Many of the electrons
that have absorbed some energy from low-energy photons don't hold onto it
for long enough to absorb more energy.
A startup called Solar Junction says its solar
cells could bring the price of solar power to below 10 cents per kWh. The
cells require fewer layers than many other ultra-efficient solar cells and
are better matched to the solar spectrum. They are designed for systems that
use mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight.
Concentrated photovoltaic systems are limited to very sunny areas, where
they compete with solar thermal, which uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight
to power steam turbines. Concentrated solar power is held back by the need
to find semiconductors that divide the spectrum optimally and have matching
Solar Junction's semiconductors can convert
41% of the energy in sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic power at 10
cents per kWh is still far more expensive than fossil fuel power.
Solar photovoltaic tables will charge
Red China to Red America
Chief of the General Staff of the
People's Liberation Army, Chen Bingde, at a joint news
conference with visiting U.S. counterpart Admiral Mike Mullen,
said: "I know the U.S. is still recovering from the financial
crisis. Under such circumstances, it is still spending a lot of
money on its military and isn't that placing too much pressure
on the taxpayers?"
AR Americans must get used to more of this
as they float on a sea of red ink from China.
The U.S. Army Robust Electric
Laser Initiative aims to mount a 100 kW laser weapon on a truck
The U.S. Air Force plans to
build a 150 kW continuous wave laser, HELLADS, the High Energy
Liquid Laser Area Defense System, to fit into the forward bomb
bay of a B-1B bomber and to begin testing in 2012.
Bet that America's laser-blasting bomber won't be
ready much sooner than its laser-blasting truck.
Tech Labor Boom
Internet companies are scrambling to
find technology specialists. Product designers are in highest
demand. Because so many new companies are building software for
consumers, interface design skills are at a premium.
ist vor dem
Hintergrund der Aufstände in der arabischen
The Communist Party of China
Is 90 Years Old
The Communist Party of China
celebrates its 90th birthday on Friday. An exhibition at the
site in Shanghai of the 1921 founding of the party tells
visitors: "Since British invaders launched the opium war in
1840, the western capitalist powers came one after another to
China and China was thus reduced to a semi-colonial and
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao was in
Britain this week and watched a performance in
Stratford-upon-Avon of Hamlet: "It made me wonder whether the
foreign friends cherish as keen an interest in China's history
and theatre as I have for Shakespeare."