Blade Runner 2049
Britain has fallen
from the top
to the bottom of the league of
economies in the
year since the Brexit vote
"De l'audace, encore de l'audace,
toujours de l'audace et la
Boeing v Bombardier
US Department of Commerce
sides with Boeing
in its war
against Canada planemaker Bombardier and slaps 220%
tariffs on sales into the US,
alleging Bombardier sold
airliners below cost into US
thanks to subsidies from
AR Bad for US-UK trade
prospects after Brexit.
The Handmaid's Tale
treats women as property of
state, forcing them
into sexual servitude
to repopulate a
2017 September 30
BFR Mars Vision
The New York Times
Australia, Elon Musk said he has a workable plan for a new rocket
and spaceship. The “BFR” would be 9 m in diameter and able to lift
150 Mg to LEO — more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket that took
Apollo astronauts to the Moon.
For Mars colonists, the BFR
would lift a spaceship with 40 cabins for about 100 people per
flight. After launch, the booster would return to the launchpad. The
spaceship would continue to orbit and refill its tanks with methane
and oxygen before pushing on to Mars. With everything reusable, the
cost of operation would be low. The system could even fly passengers
between any two points on Earth in less than an hour. Musk said BFR
could launch in 2022 and go to Mars in 2024.
has a Mars mission vision too. It would head to Mars in 2028 with 6
astronauts and the first trip would only circle Mars for a year
before returning to Earth. It would use the Orion crew capsule and
the NASA Deep Space Gateway.
Musk — Moon — Mars
Elon Musk dreams of an
enormous new rocket that he calls the BFR, to lift 150 tons up to
LEO. Once up and running, it will launch satellites and ferry cargo
and crew to the ISS.
Then it will fly to the Moon: "This will
enable the creation of a lunar base. It's 2017 — we should have a
lunar base by now. And then of course Mars, becoming a multi-planet
species. Beats the hell out of being a single-planet species."
5778 Tishri 9
UN schoolbooks used in Gaza and the West
Bank display extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments and no
hope for peace in the region, according to a new study.
textbooks depict Jews as having no rights in the region but only
greedy ambitions. The Jewish holy sites are all presented as Muslim
holy places threatened by Jews. Israel is not recognized at all.
Schoolbooks dated 2016 say the 6 million Jews living in the
country after its supposed liberation will endure expulsion from the
land and extermination of their defeated and scattered remnants.
The UN is helping to prepare Palestinian children and youths for
a future war with Israel.
In Kuala Lumpur, I recently gave a talk on
apostasy from Islam. I said Muslims must uphold freedom of
conscience, in line with the Quranic dictum that there shall be no
compulsion in religion.
A group of religion enforcement
officers came into the lecture hall, looking serious. I and my hosts
decided to cancel my next lecture. I went to the airport to go home
but was arrested and locked up. In the morning, I was taken to a
Shariah court, interrogated for two hours, and finally let go.
A parenthetical note is frequently
inserted into Saudi translations of the Quranic verse: “There shall
be no compulsion in religion (in becoming a Muslim).” They agree
that no one should be forced to become a Muslim but think Muslims
should be compelled to practice Islam in the way they define.
By policing religion, the authorities are enfeebling their
societies, raising hypocrites, and causing people to lose their
respect for Islam.
2017 September 28
Hugh Hefner, the founder and
editor-in-chief of Playboy, always said his ideal for the
centerfold photo was "the girl next door with her clothes off."
Playboy was launched in 1953. The magazine proposed that wanton
sex was good for you. In his first issue, Hefner ran a nude
photograph of Marilyn Monroe. It made the issue a hit.
set out to sell an upscale hedonism. He brought in fiction by
well-known authors and featured interviews with Miles Davis, Peter
Sellers, Bertrand Russell, Malcolm X, Billy Wilder, Richard Burton,
Jawaharlal Nehru, Jimmy Hoffa, Albert Schweitzer, Vladimir Nabokov,
Jean Genet, Ingmar Bergman, Dick Gregory, Henry Miller, Cassius
Clay, George Wallace, and many more.
The fee for a
centerfold shoot today is $25,000. These women hope the centerfold
will get them a career in modeling or acting. One wonders whether
sex is still the point.
Playboy is still the best-selling
men's magazine in the United States.
More Gravitational Waves
On 14 August, the new Virgo detector in
Italy and the two US detectors that make up LIGO all observed the
ripples in spacetime caused by two black holes merging. This is the
fourth gravitational wave detection ever. All four have come from
pairs of black holes spiraling toward one another and then
The black holes that caused this latest burst of
gravitational waves were 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun before
they merged. They are located about 1.8 billion light years away
from Earth in the direction of the constellation Eridanus.
LIGO collaboration member Kenneth Strain: "Three detectors is not
just a little bit better than two — it gives us radically better
information about the location of the source and what's going on
with the source. The numbers we can get now are much more precise
LIGO spokesperson David Shomaker: "This is just
the beginning of observations with the network enabled by Virgo and
LIGO working together. With the next observing run planned for fall
2018 we can expect such detections weekly or even more often."
2017 September 27
Relaunching the European Project
The Europe we know is too weak, too slow,
too inefficient, but Europe alone can give us a capacity for action
in the world in the face of major contemporary challenges. The only
path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is
sovereign, united, and democratic.
— Create an EU intervention force
— Create an
EU defense budget and a common doctrine to act
— Create an EU
intelligence academy and a public prosecutor for terrorism
Create an EU asylum office and border police
— Create an EU
natural disaster response force
Economy and Trade
— Impose an EU tax on financial transactions and use it to fund
— Impose an EU company tax with rate bands as a
condition for structural funds
— Strengthen the EZ with a
stronger budget and a minister of finance
— Set a carbon tax of at least €25 per ton
to penalize pollution
— Impose a carbon tax at EU external
borders on imports from polluting industries
— Create an EU innovation agency to
finance research in fields such as AI
— Create EU champions in
the digital transition
— Tax digital enterprises by taxing the
value where it is created
— Regulate major platforms
— Start a broad debate on Europe
to offer ideas before the 2019 EU elections
— Elect half of the
European Parliament on transnational lists
— Reduce the European
Commission to 15 members.
— Rebuild the European project by and
with the people
French president Emmanuel Macron spoke on
the future of Europe for 100 minutes at the Sorbonne. It was more
than double the projected time and was greeted with rapturous
Macron repeated the French
desire for a common EZ budget, focused on renewed Franco-German
cooperation, and proposed the creation of a common European
intervention force and joint defense doctrine. He did not dwell on
"I have no red lines, I have only horizons.
Audacity is the only answer."
We were told that there will be no going
back to a hard border in Ireland. But if part of the island is in a
different customs union than the remainder, the need for border
checks seems inescapable.
Ireland does more than
€1 billion a week trade with the UK. Last year alone saw 110 million
border crossings. Some 375,000 Irish people now live in the UK. And
277,000 British people now live in the Republic of Ireland. For this
volume of trade and travel to be interrupted by border checks is
The peace in Ireland is anchored in EU
membership. EU citizenship has allowed a blurring of British versus
Irish identity. We cannot allow Brexit to undermine the progress
made since 1998.
Jason Brennan says most US voters are
ignorant about politics. They treat politics like a sport. The
completely ignorant are hobbits, those who root for one team and
hate the other are hooligans, and a tiny minority of vulcans examine
the evidence to form their political judgments.
Brennan proposes restricting the franchise on the grounds of a
knowledge test to create an epistocracy. He rejects the pious notion
that political participation tends to educate, enlighten, and
ennoble. He says more political involvement is likely to turn
hobbits into hooligans.
Brennan says modern
democracies fail to achieve rational ends. But the democratic
process is not really about individual voters making rational or
irrational choices. Rather, it allows leaders to gain power on the
basis of their claims to represent different ideas, interests, and
The quality of democracy depends on the space
between voters and the policy decisions that bind them. Ignorance
and misinformation are often spread by political elites to further
their interests. Democratic politics can be ugly, but it can throw
the bastards out.
Intel has developed a self-learning neuromorphic
chip that mimics how the brain functions. This extremely
energy-efficient chip gets smarter over time and does not need to be
trained in the traditional way. It takes a novel approach to
computing via asynchronous spiking.
draws inspiration from our current understanding of brain
architecture and computations. The brain relays information with
pulses or spikes, modulating the synaptic strengths or weight of the
interconnections based on timing of these spikes, and storing these
changes locally at the interconnections. Intelligent behaviors
emerge from the cooperative and competitive interactions between
multiple regions within the neural network and its environment.
The Loihi research test chip includes digital circuits that
mimic the brain, making machine learning faster and more efficient.
Neuromorphic chip models are inspired by how neurons communicate and
learn, using spikes and plastic synapses that can be modulated based
2017 September 26
Germany Turns Right
Germany is heading for a Jamaica
coalition. Germany has never seen such a coalition at the national
level. But the coalition has no substantive foundation. It only has
a common enemy, the AfD.
That is hardly a promising
starting point for good governance. Liberal democracy is insecure.
We are seeing in the United Kingdom and in France how tiny cracks
can grow with time into big divides. We have seen in the United
States, Poland, Hungary, and Turkey how ruthless politics can become
and how rapidly freedom can be eroded.
Whether the AfD, with
its intolerance and xenophobia and with the return of Nazi notions
it represents, will remain a fringe phenomenon or whether it will
prosper and gain power will depend on how the new government and the
new parliament approach the challenges of the coming years.
Angela Merkel enjoys admiration from abroad. In crises, she seems
neutral and ambiguous — she waits to see how things play out.
Germany lost control of its borders for around two months in 2015.
Merkel will have to find her way to determination and learn to
explain the steps she takes if she wants to prevent the populists
The Bundestag has not been good enough in
recent years. There have been few debates deserving of the name and
the government has not felt beholden to parliament. Democracy
Germany Is Normal
Germany has lost its immunity to angry
populism. The Alternative for Germany scored over 13% of the vote,
still well below the proportion of voters who elected Trump,
delivered Brexit, and opted for extremists in France. But its strong
showing dashes the hope that Germany is different.
has begun to play with the most incendiary material in German
history. Alexander Gauland said Germans have a right to be proud of
their soldiers in both world wars. Alice Weidel called the German
government the puppets of the victorious powers of the second world
The presence of a rightwing nationalist party in the
Bundestag will change the tone of German politics. Germany already
has difficult relations with both Turkey and Poland. Hopes for
deeper European integration may be put on hold. Germany looks like a
normal western country.
The Darkening Age
A militant religion deliberately attacked
and suppressed the teachings of the classical world, ushering in
centuries of unquestioning adherence to its faith.
Christians, far from being meek and mild, were violent, ruthless,
and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the old polytheistic faiths,
this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and
the light, but also that every other way was wrong and had to be
destroyed. For the first five centuries, those who failed to fall
into step with its beliefs were pursued in every possible way:
social, legal, financial, and physical. Their altars were upturned
and their temples demolished, their statues hacked to pieces and
their priests killed. It was an annihilation.
The Christian church demolished, vandalised and melted down a
simply staggering quantity of art. Classical statues were knocked
from their plinths, defaced, defiled and torn limb from limb.
Temples were razed to their foundations and burned to the ground.
Monasteries began to erase the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca,
and Archimedes. Every single work of Democritus and his heretical
atomism vanished. Nine tenths of all classical literature was lost.
AR Christianity has been
tamed since the
Enlightenment. Now we face the aggressive intolerance of fundamentalist Islam.
Die Linke 69
Prof. h. c. Dr. K. Lamers
Dr. S. Harbarth
führt aus der EU
Brexit — Remain
A new poll shows a majority
UK to remain in the EU.
Of 1,447 British adults polled
in mid-September, with results
for the UK profile,
52% say remain, 48% leave.
"Throughout its history the UN
has suffered from a seemingly
unbridgeable gap between the
nobility of its purposes and the
effectiveness of its delivery."
Wile E Coyote
"Boris is Boris"
Another good movie
and Javier Bardem star in a
spectacle of revulsion,
a veritable agape of chaos,
AR I found it
2017 September 25
The Price of Success
Angela Merkel will serve as German
chancellor for a fourth term. Her Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) saw their
joint result fall by more than 8% — their worst showing since 1949.
The strategic goal has been achieved, but at a high price.
Voters have punished the parties of the current governing coalition.
The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) will now enter
parliament. And it will be difficult for Merkel to build a stable
The AfD have announced their intention
to hunt down the chancellor. More than a million voters are believed
to have flocked from the CDU and the CSU to the AfD. Most of them
say that it was the chancellor's refugee policies that led them to
shift their vote.
Merkel has identified the regulation of
refugee flows and domestic security as the key topics for the coming
years. Who will succeed her? The question is likely to arise soon.
Dunkirk, the rescue of the British army from
the beaches of northeastern France in May 1940, is a British tale
that feeds the myth that has brought the UK to the cliff edge of
departure from the EU — that there is splendor in being alone.
Winston Churchill never saw anything in the least glorious about
standing alone. He saw that while Britain might somehow avert defeat,
without fighting alongside friends it could not conceivably aspire
to victory. Only necessity and a supremely courageous willingness to
defy reason caused him in June 1940 to proclaim British
determination to fight to the last.
For the rest of 1940 —
the mood turned sourer in 1941 — the British people displayed a
stoicism and even euphoria as irrational as Brexit exultation.
Churchill and his nation set the world a magnificent example of
defiance, but it was an impotent defiance, from which both Britain
and democracy were redeemed only by the belated arrival of allies.
Michael Korda is surely right to compare the emotions of the
modern Brexiteers with those of the British in June 1940: "There was
a national sense of relief .. at leaving the Continent and
withdrawing behind the White Cliffs of Dover."
2017 September 24
Jon Henley, 17:23 BST
Angela Merkel will form
a coalition government after sliding to about 32% of the vote
from 41.5% in 2013. She could form a "Jamaica" coalition of CDU
(black), FDP (gold), and Greens (green).
The SPD scores 20% —
a new new post-war low. The party will go into opposition. At 13%,
the AfD will not be the official opposition party in the Bundestag.
Dramatische Verluste für Union,
SPD auf Rekordtief, AfD dritte Kraft
Die Welt, 18:18 CEST
Die Union wird mit 32,7% stärkste
Partei. Die SPD steht nur noch bei 20,2%. Drittstärkste Partei wird
der Hochrechnung von 18.12 Uhr zufolge die AfD mit 13,4%. Die FDP
kehrt mit 10,5% der Stimmen in den Bundestag zurück. Auch Grüne und
Linke werden vertreten sein.
God And Spock
Simon Yisrael Feuerman
A new series of Star Trek
premieres this weekend.
In the original Star Trek series,
Spock was played by Leonard Nimoy. Spock had a Vulcan salute
appropriated from the hand signs the Cohanim make when they recite
the priestly blessings in synagogue.
In one episode, Spock
and Kirk met up with a monster capable of great destruction but also
love and tenderness. Spock felt he must communicate with the monster
even if doing so could kill him. He used a Vulcan mind-meld to
connect with this creature. Spock came into painful touch with the
monster, screaming pain followed by an uncontrollable
Later, Nimoy revealed that he when he
was eight years old, his family took him to shul on the high
holidays, and he witnessed the priestly blessing. His father
admonished him not to look at the priests as they blessed the
congregation. He was told that the shekhina, the presence and the
light of God, shone through their hands and fingers, and the holy
light could fatally blind.
Nimoy invented Spock as a kind of
2017 September 23
Antoine Tilloy approaches gravity by
tweaking standard quantum mechanics. He modifies the GRW model to
show how it can lead to a theory of gravity. The model incorporates
flashes — spontaneous random collapses of the quantum state vector —
that have the effect of measurements without observers.
flash collapses a state vector to a unique state, creating a
gravitational field at that point in spacetime. A massive quantum
system with many particles is subject to numerous flashes, to give a
fluctuating gravitational field that averages out to a Newtonian
This approach to unifying gravity with
quantum mechanics is called semiclassical: gravity arises from
quantum processes but remains a classical force. The model predicts
that gravity behaves differently at the atomic and cosmological
AR It will be hard to
coax us all away from the geometric approach to gravity in general
relativity. Also, those random flashes are quite unmotivated. I
studied the GRW model 30 years ago and was unconvinced. Roger
Penrose controversially proposed a similar mechanism, with
consciousness to trigger the flashes.
2017 September 22
A New Era of Cooperation and Partnership
The British people have decided to leave the
European Union. Our determination to defend the stability, security,
and prosperity of our European neighbours and friends remains
steadfast. We will do all this as a sovereign nation in which the
British people are in control.
Since the triggering of
Article 50 in March, we have made concrete progress on many
important issues. The UK government, the Irish government, and the
EU as a whole have been clear that through the process of our
withdrawal we will protect progress made in Northern Ireland over
recent years. We have also made significant progress on how we look
after European nationals living in the UK and British nationals
living in the 27 Member States of the EU.
We will no longer
be members of the single market or its customs union. Let us be
creative in designing an ambitious economic partnership which
respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of
the British people. To make this partnership work, we will need a
strong and appropriate dispute resolution mechanism.
proposing a bold new strategic agreement that provides a
comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement, and
criminal justice cooperation. We are also proposing a far reaching
partnership on how we protect Europe together from the threats we
face in the world today. What we are offering will be unprecedented.
There should be a period of implementation after the UK leaves
the EU. As of today, these considerations point to an implementation
period of around two years.
Our departure causes another type
of uncertainty for the remaining member states and their taxpayers
over the EU budget. We can only resolve this as part of the
settlement of all the issues. The UK will honour commitments we have
made during the period of our membership.
will be difficult. But we can find a way forward that makes a
success of this for all of our peoples. The tone I want to set is
one of partnership and friendship.
Germans vote in their general election on
Sunday. The only question is who Angela Merkel will pick as a junior
coalition partner for her fourth term. For spice, you have to look
to the Alternative for Germany and its coded racism.
who grew up in communist East Germany, is the perfect embodiment of
a nation that has had its fill of political thrills. This is why the
country will grant her yet another term, at the end of which she
will have been in office for 16 years.
The queen of consensus
also knows how to reverse course. In the refugee crisis of 2015, she
welcomed a million migrants into the country. By early 2016, the
Balkan route into Germany was closed and border controls were back.
Historically, moderation has never been a German speciality. Now
blandness is a blessing. The Merkel republic offers full employment,
decent growth, and a more egalitarian income distribution than
elsewhere west of Scandinavia.
No European NATO member has
disarmed further or faster than Germany since 1990. But Russians
seem ready to redraw European borders by force.
2017 September 21
The general election in Germany will see the
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party enter the Bundestag.
Rightwing populism has been a fixture in the Netherlands and Austria
for years and authoritarian nationalists are ruling Poland and
Hungary, but Germany is different.
Four years ago, the AfD
was led by an economics professor who wanted Germany to leave the
euro. He and the other liberals are gone now, sidelined by Frauke
Petry, who transformed the party into a populist anti-immigrant
outfit. But she wanted the AfD to enter government coalitions and
she demanded the expulsion of far-right radicals. Though still the
party chairwoman, she is obviously on the way out.
stars are Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. Weidel used to work
for Goldman Sachs and Allianz Global Investors, is openly lesbian,
and lives in Switzerland for tax reasons. She praises communist
China for its law and order and because it protects its borders.
Gauland is portrayed in a 1996 novel as a reactionary bureaucrat and
careerist. He is against American capitalism and for
The AfD is on the brink of success.
Perhaps the realities of parliamentary work will expose its
weakness. If a true leader arises, the party could really go places.
Andreas von Bubnoff
Brains are paragons of energy
efficiency. The human brain consumes something like 20 W of power.
Modern supercomputers would use over a billion times the power to
simulate the same activity.
UCLA researchers hope to match
this efficiency with systems that mirror brain structure. A team led
by Adam Stieg and Jim Gimzewski is building a device inspired by the
brain to do what it does.
The current pilot device is a 2x2
mm mesh of silver nanowires connected by artificial synapses. The
device is messy, like a highly interconnected plate of noodles. Its
fine structure essentially organizes itself out of random chemical
and electrical processes.
The mesh boasts 1 billion
artificial synapses per cm^2, which is within a couple of orders of
magnitude of the brain. Its electrical activity also displays a
property of complex systems like the brain: criticality, a state
between order and chaos indicative of maximum efficiency.
Preliminary experiments suggest this neuromorphic silver wire mesh
can perform simple learning and logic operations, it can clean the
unwanted noise from received signals, and it proves the principle
that devices can compute with an energy efficiency close to
that of the brain.
The researchers trained the wire network
to execute simple logic operations. If such neuromorphic atomic
switch networks can eventually solve tasks as effectively as
algorithms running on traditional computers, they could do so using
only a billionth as much power — and fast.
2017 September 20
President Donald Trump says unless North
Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs,
"the United States will have no choice but to totally destroy" the
country: "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his
Secretary of Defense James Mattis says a war on the
Korean peninsula would be tragic on an unbelievable scale. Even if
the United States could pull off a military campaign of exceptional
virtuosity, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would likely die.
National Security Advisor Lieutenant General McMaster has made
the case for military attacks. He says President Trump will not
allow North Korea to develop the capacity for a nuclear attack on
the United States. Military action must be on the table.
White House is conflating possession with use. Shrewder would be to
say nuclear weapons make no difference, because any attack on
America or its allies would result in the end of the Kim regime. A
nuclear-armed North Korea is no big deal.
2017 September 19
As President of the United States, I will
always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your
countries, will always and should always put your countries first.
All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own
citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for
elevating the human condition.
Hegel used to say nation-states were in a state of nature relative
to each other. Wars followed.
We Were Wrong
Earth has warmed more slowly than had been forecast by computer
models. It seems we have a better chance than previously claimed of
meeting the goal set by the Paris agreement on climate change to
limit warming to 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels.
study published in Nature Geoscience shows that rapid reductions in
emissions will still be required but suggests that the world has
more time to make the changes.
University College London
professor of international energy and climate change Michael Grubb:
"It's still likely to be very difficult to achieve these kind of
changes quickly enough but we are in a better place than I thought."
The new study finds that computer models used by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a more rapid
temperature increase than has taken place. Global average
temperature has risen by about 0.9 K since pre-industrial times but
there was a slowdown in the rate of warming from 2000 to 2014.
Oxford University professor of geosystem science Myles Allen:
"We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that
we see in the models. We haven't seen that in the observations."
According to the earlier models, keeping to the 1.5 K target
would mean humans could emit only about 70 gigatons of carbon after
2015. In the new view, we can emit another 240 gigatons and still
have a reasonable chance of keeping within 1.5 K.
"That's about 20 years of emissions before temperatures are likely
to cross 1.5 C. It's the difference between being not doable and
being just doable."
Grubb: "We're in the midst of an energy
revolution and it's happening faster than we thought, which makes it
much more credible for governments to tighten the offer they put on
the table at Paris."
AR Good news
— for now!
2017 September 18
Brexit — Benefits
Theresa May will speak in Florence before
the next round of Brexit talks. She will reportedly say that after
Brexit the UK will wish to maintain a special relationship with the
EU. Arguably her most important audience will be in the UK.
There are economic benefits to be gained from Brexit:
1 UK public finances will benefit. The
outlook published by the OBR shows EU payments falling from £12.6
billion in 2018/19 to zero in 2019/20.
UK legislators can comb through the vast corpus of EU regulation,
amending it to suit the best interests of British business and our
economy in general.
A trade deal is in the gift of the EU,
and at best they will offer a bad deal. No deal simply means trading
on WTO terms, like most UK trade with the rest of the world.
There is no cliff edge and no cliff.
Go tell Wile E Coyote.
A Ludicrous Fantasy
Her Majesty's secretary of state for foreign
and commonwealth affairs, Boris Johnson, is an accomplished
confidence man. His 4,200-word job application (he wants to be prime
minister) in last Saturday's Telegraph is a masterclass in
doublespeak and smarm. Almost everything it says about the prospects
of a Brexit deal is false.
The members of the Conservative
party who might still make him prime minister want to believe
Britain is the second-greatest power on Earth after America. They
want to believe that wicked foreigners are taking from us £350
million a week. They are instinctively convinced they you cannot be
a patriot and a lover of the European Union.
demands a sense of proportion. Fear of young people who declare
their allegiance to a European ideal is not true patriotism but the
last resort of scoundrels. The task for we who think Brexit will be
a disaster is first to mitigate it and second to pin the blame on
the Bullingdon boys.
Richard Prum believes in the Darwinian theory
of sexual selection. He is an expert on the evolution of feathers
and says they may have first evolved as a decorative surface for
Prum believes courtship displays and rituals
arise from a multigenerational conversation between mating partners.
Male aesthetic and social qualities are repeatedly tested, judged,
and modified by whether they please potential mates. Thus individual
female preferences help drive evolution.
according to the demands of either fitness or beauty. A trait
selected for its beauty might create problems by selecting for
ornaments that work against fitness. But aesthetic courtship creates
a culture that gives the female sexual choice, autonomy, and safety.
Such choices gradually reshape mating behavior.
how, for one human trait after another, adaptationist explanations
fail while aesthetic ones work. Distinctive human sexual traits
evolved to help women evaluate male prosocial-pleasure potential.
Humans evolved to negotiate and have sex as a sort of display
Sexual selection is shaped by conflicts between male
and female priorities. Sexual species tend to evolve toward either
big forceful males or beautiful males. Prum says humans chose
2017 September 17
Thermodynamics describes the collective
behavior of large numbers of particles, irrespective of many
microscopic details. It covers a wide class of phenomena in its
In a renormalization group formalism,
we go from small to large by taking averages. Instead of looking at
the behavior of individual atoms, we can take little cubes, say 10
atoms wide on a side, as building blocks. We can then repeat this
averaging procedure. Renormalization theory describes how the
properties of a system change as we increase the length scale of the
At the limits of the renormalization process in
the infinitely large or small, things will typically simplify
because either all details are washed away or the environment
This approach to quantum
gravity started with the thermodynamics of black holes and came into
being with the work of Juan Maldacena. In this approach, quantum
spacetime, including all the particles and forces in it, emerges
from a holographic system with fewer spatial dimensions.
Spacetime emerges out of the complexity of quantum information.
Thermodynamics and general relativity both describe emergent
AR A series of effective models at different scales
needs folding at the limits into a theory of consciousness to give us an
epistemologically grounded ontology.
The Rub Of Time
Martin Amis lives with his wife Isabel
Fonseca in Brooklyn. At 68, he is still very much Amis:
"I miss the
English. I miss Londoners. I miss the wit."
The terms of
success in America are narrower, with a greater emphasis on
individual responsibility. Amis says it is undoubtedly an easier
place in which to be a successful novelist.
died in 2011, much sooner than Amis
expected. Amis is adamant about the absurdity of losing
old friends over politics: "As Hitch said, you can't make old
Since 1993, his own family life has been low in drama.
He says he and Isabel have been lucky in all sorts of ways. Amis has
The Golden House
Salman Rushdie has written a tale involving great wealth and a
great downfall, through a narrator who lives in the same New York garden square as Nero Golden and
his three sons.
The book begins with the election of Barack Obama and ends eight
years later on the eve of an election in which the lead contender
refers to himself as the Joker. Nero is a man of fabulous wealth,
with a beautiful Russian wife, and a fortune thought to be in part
built on real estate.
The novel sees New York from the inside
and the outside. Rushdie seems to be saying character creates destiny. Nero is the architect of his own
2017 September 16
German elections take place on 24
September. There is zero suspense as to who will be the next
chancellor. Angela Merkel is set for a fourth term in office. She
has managed to anchor her image as a safe pair of hands to shield
the country from how crazy the world has become. Germans just want
to hunker down and keep on living the good life.
British, but for entirely different reasons, Germans have taken a
holiday from the world. German voters have not shown the slightest
interest in Brexit. German politicians too: Brexit was not mentioned
once in the TV election debate between Merkel and Martin Schulz.
France comes across as a bit of an exception. Europe featured
prominently in the French campaign, as an object of celebration for
Emmanuel Macron and as a source of all evil for Marine Le Pen. One
reason Macron won is that he equated Europe with a new form of
Contrary to many predictions, the 2015
refugee crisis has not upended German politics. In Britain, it
contributed to producing Brexit. In France, it helped Le Pen collect
10 million votes. Merkel has changed her policies by closing the
open door, but not her rhetoric on the moral duty of asylum.
The German public mood will make it harder to agree a collective
European strategy for dealing with Brexit, Trump, Russia, Turkey,
the Balkans, China, Africa, climate change, migration ..
Armageddon and Paranoia
Nuclear deterrence depended on mutually assured destruction.
Stalin understood after WW2 that the US nuclear arsenal was too
slender to pose an immediate threat. He challenged American power in
Berlin in 1948 and supported the North Korean invasion of South
Korea in 1950.
When Curtis LeMay was called in to sort out US
Strategic Air Command in 1948, he found that bombers had first to
fly to Texas to pick up their bombs, then refuel in Britain before
they could drop their load on the Soviet Union. By 1953 he had fixed
that with 500 bombers, 500 aerial tankers, and a web of bases across
Stalin responded by throwing massive resources at
the nuclear project. In 1955, the Soviets conducted the first ever
test of a thermonuclear bomb, dropped from a plane over
Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. They launched the satellite Sputnik
into space in 1957.
At the time of the Cuban missile crisis
in 1962, President Kennedy chose not to make use of US nuclear
superiority. The fear that even a few Soviet missiles could hit US
cities was compelling. Kim Jong Un is creating another Sputnik
moment for America.
Armageddon and Paranoia by Rodric Braithwaite
2017 September 15
Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro
regarding the use of force are at the heart of some of the most
beneficial transformations of the past 70 years.
ago, war was regarded as a legal and legitimate instrument of state
action. States had the right to wage war to right legal wrongs. The
first world war was the terrible culmination of the old world order.
The Paris Peace Pact of 1928 had the goal of outlawing war.
Fifteen nations signed the pact immediately and within a year nearly
every state in the world followed suit. The signatories had rejected
a world in which war was the tool for resolving disputes and
In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. US
secretary of state Henry Stimson wrote to the governments of China
and Japan to say the US government would not recognize any outcome
brought about by means outlawed by the Peace Pact.
US attorney general Robert Jackson said the Peace Pact authorized
the Lend-Lease Act, through which the United States supplied war
material on favorable terms to the Allies.
The second world
war was a war of military might and of ideas. The Axis powers fought
for the retention of the old world order. The Allies aimed to build
a new legal structure grounded in the renunciation of war. When the
Allies won, they defeated the old world order.
Nations was built around the commitment to outlawing war. The world
order that resulted has brought 70 years of peace.
AR Apart from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq ..
The NASA Cassini mission to
the Saturn system ends September 15. The satellite will dive into the
clouds and burn up.
The moon Titan nudged its trajectory down
to Saturn. NASA calls the nudge a goodbye kiss.
In April, Vladimir Putin sent
a document to Washington
proposing normalization of relations between the US and
Russia across all major
branches of government.
He underestimated the
political blowback the
administration would face if
it normalized relations
investigations by the FBI and
Congress into allegations
collusion with Russia.
The Russian ambassador to
offer is still open.
Saharon Shelah have
made a breakthrough in
of the continuum
UK-MEP Nigel Farage bei
AfD-Treff in Zitadelle
spricht mit AfD-MEP
2017 September 14
Populism endangers peace and stability
Hungary — the government is led
by Viktor Orbán, a populist and nationalist who undertook to turn
Hungary in an authoritarian direction. Roughly two-thirds of
Hungarians support xenophobia.
Poland — the
conservative Catholic Law and Justice Party is passing
Czech Republic —
the conservative government is increasingly authoritarian and
Greece — the left-wing
Syriza regime exudes the same authoritarian populism as the extreme
right. Syriza gained power by promising that Greece could keep its
welfare system, never pay its creditors, and maybe even renounce the
France — an existential threat to Jews
has emerged from immigrants. Most of the violence is perpetrated by
radicalized Muslims. French Jews are now leaving the country in
Russia — Vladimir Putin
garners populist praise for Russia as the vanguard of white,
Christian civilization, against both the rising tide of Islam and
American decadence. When the Soviet Union dissolved, its army and
secret police remained intact and communism became nationalism.
2017 September 13
State of the Union
The EU economy is
bouncing back. We should stay the course and chart the direction for
the future. Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and
more democratic Europe for 2025.
Today I wrote to European
Parliament president Antonio Tajani and prime minister Jüri Ratas
outlining the priorities for the year ahead. Five proposals are
1 I want
us to strengthen our European trade agenda. Partners across the
globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with
2 I want to make our industry
stronger and more competitive. I am shocked when consumers are
knowingly and deliberately misled and I call on the car industry to
come clean and put this right.
I want Europe to be the leader in the fight against climate change.
Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe
will ensure we make our planet great again.
4 We need to better protect Europeans in
the digital age. A European cybersecurity agency will to help defend
us against attacks.
will stay on our radar. Europe is not a fortress. Europe is and must
remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution
can find refuge.
Europe was always about values:
Freedom from oppression and dictatorship, freedom
to voice your opinion as a citizen and as a journalist: on these
freedoms our union was built.
between its members, with no second class citizens or second class
workers or second class consumers.
— The rule of law,
with law and justice upheld by an independent judiciary, where
member states gave final jurisdiction to the ECJ.
needs to become more inclusive, with the euro as the single
currency, with all member states in the banking union, and with
agreed social rights. It needs a stronger single market, stronger
economic and monetary union, and a European minister of economy and
finance accountable to the European Parliament.
be stronger in fighting terrorism and stronger as a global actor. By
2025 we need a European defense union. We need it and NATO wants it.
I want our union to have a stronger focus on things that matter.
We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by
regulating every aspect. We should give back competences to member
states where it makes sense.
The EU needs to take a
democratic leap forward. I would like to see European political
parties start campaigning for the next elections much earlier than
in the past, with new rules on the financing of political parties
and foundations. Europe would function better if we were to merge
the presidencies of the European Commission and the European
On 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. This
will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But
we have to respect the will of the British people.
My hope is
that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we
all stand by our values, where all member states firmly respect the
rule of law, where being a full member of the EZ and the Schengen
area is the norm for all member states, where we can defend our
single currency, where our single market is fairer, where we agree
on social standards, where profits are taxed where they were made,
where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit, where we have agreed
on a defense union, and where a single democratically elected
president leads the way.
If our citizens wake up to this
union on 30 March 2019, they can vote in the European Parliament
elections in May with the firm conviction that our union is a place
that works for them.
2017 September 12
Brexit — The Irish Question
The Irish Question: How do you impose an
EU frontier across a small island without utterly unsettling the
complex compromises that have ended three decades of conflict?
EU guidelines for its negotiations with the UK: "In view of the
unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, flexible and
imaginative solutions will be required."
The Irish radically
revised their nationalism. The power of the Catholic Church
collapsed, the Irish economy became a poster child for
globalization, and the search for peace in Northern Ireland forced a
rethinking of ideas. Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar is 38, part
Indian, and gay.
The Irish border is a physical token of a
mental frontier. The reciprocal withdrawal of territorial claims has
recreated Northern Ireland as a new kind of political space. The
Belfast Agreement recognizes the birthright of all the people of
Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or
British, or both, as they choose.
When these ideas were
framed and endorsed in referendums on both sides of the Irish
border, a third identity as EU members was shared: Ireland and the
UK joined the EU together in 1973.
Brexit is England
revolting against the ideas that animated the Belfast Agreement. In
the 2016 referendum, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London rejected
Brexit and Wales voted narrowly in favor. In England without London,
Brexit won by almost 11%. Brexit was a nationalist uprising — but
the nation was England.
Northern Ireland is both Irish and
British. Its people have an irrevocable right to be EU citizens.
2017 September 11
Brexit — Sweet Delusion
British hopes for a sweet soft Brexit
deal reveal ignorance of the internal logic of the EU.
is rapidly evolving into an economic zone governed by a single set
of rules and standards and overseen by a single European court of
justice, striking trade deals with the rest of the world and
deriving its logic and coherence from the four freedoms — goods,
capital, services, labor. It will be a single economy, not just a
Brits misread the EU position on Brexit. No
other EU member state wants to leave, because each believes the
benefits of membership exceed its costs. They all want to prevent
other member states using a sweet deal for Britain to claim their
own version. EU refusal to cut Britain a sweet deal is not about
punishment but about self-preservation.
deluded to think EU self-interest is served by a special deal for
AR Like the dilemma of a
bunch of prisoners: one defects and wins at the expense of the
others, several defect and all lose, none defects and all win.
Except that in an integrated world a lone defector can't win
either. Go figure.
The Nature of Consciousness
A Conversation wth Thomas Metzinger
podcast #96 (1 h 54 m)
AR Delightful — I know Thomas and I
feel I know Sam, and I agree with just about everything they say
here. They are two of the inner avatars — two mini-me figures — in my mindspace
that jostle to bring my manifold of sensation to the synthetic unity
of apperception, to recall a trope due to Immanuel Kant. They are
inseparable in that sense from the ceaseless substrate of
cerebro-cognitive processing that builds and rebuilds my sense of
self. To recall a trope due to Daniel Dennett, they are demons in my
2017 September 10
Brexit — Address Grievances
British politics is in thrall to Brexit. There
is no diversion possible from Brexit without addressing the
grievances that gave rise to it. The people forced the political
class to wake up to the depth of their anger. But if those of us
warning about the consequence of Brexit turn out to be right, and it
makes us poorer and weaker, the anger will be worse and the choices
Immigration bedevils the politics of virtually
every European country. We need an immigration policy that reasserts
control. But by focusing on European immigration, we are targeting
the one group of migrants who clearly contribute more than they
— Keep freedom of movement but reform it.
— Support the single market as a matter of principle together with
its social protections.
— Control overall immigration in ways
that meet public anxiety but are true to our values.
why Brexit is a distraction from government failures, not a solution
Many in government feel they are bound by the
referendum and hemmed in by their party. Brexit forces a political
choice that millions will feel they cannot support and a policy
debate completely irrelevant to the real challenges the country
faces. MPs should put country above party.
2017 September 9
The Church of England
A National Census survey suggests that 8.5
million British people now identify as Anglican, down from 13 million a decade ago. In a population of 65 million, fewer than a
million go to church regularly, a decline of 11% over the past
The Church of England has 26 bishops in the House of
Lords and the Archbishop of Canterbury outranks the elected prime
minister. The Queen, who follows Henry VIII as Defender of the
Faith, says her role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion
of other religions but instead to protect the free
practice of all faiths.
The Church of England has three
sources of authority: scripture, tradition, and the exercise of
reason. C of E secretary-general William Nye may understand the
Thirty-Nine Articles but the supposed defining principles of the C
of E are unknown and virtually incomprehensible to most worshippers.
They have been argued over since their promulgation in 1571.
Only an ignoramus would deny the importance of the Church in the
creation of the welfare state. But disagreements over new liturgies,
polite squabbles over gay and gender rights, its wish to share its
authority with Islam, Sikhism and Judaism — these all indicate its
struggle to adjust to the world the rest of us have been living in
A Better Place
In 2007, long before Tesla and Elon Musk
became household names, Israeli tech entrepreneur Shai Agassi
announced that he was going to revolutionize transportation and put
millions of drivers behind the wheel of an inexpensive electric car.
It was going to make the world a Better Place. Brian Blum chronicles
the demise of that dream.
I knew Shai at SAP — he was my boss for a while. Really nice
2017 September 8
Threat to Iran Nuclear Deal
The New York Times
President Trump promised during his
campaign to kill the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Killing the deal
would give Iran an excuse to revive what had been a rapidly
advancing nuclear capability. It would confront the world with
another intractable nuclear challenge in addition to North Korea.
Iran is engaging in some worrisome pursuits, but the deal is
confined to the nuclear program. As long as Tehran is staying within
those limits, Trump has no reason not to certify compliance. The
United States has often held to deals with aggressive or unsavory
Brexit — Hard Border
The UK wants the EU to suspend the
application of its laws, its customs union and its single market at
what will be a new external border of the EU. And the UK wants to
use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs
relations — this will not happen.
Brexit — Hard Line
Liam Fox et al.
Continued membership of the single
market, even as part of a transitional arrangement, would quite
simply mean EU membership by another name. We cannot allow our
country to be kept in the EU by stealth. The government must respect
the will of the British people, and that means leaving the single
market at the same time as we leave the EU.
The single market
is a political project, and requires its members to constantly
introduce new EU laws. Therefore, the longer one remains a member
the harder it is to leave.
The UK must be free to negotiate
and sign trade deals during the transition period and must have the
power to take back control of key parts of its immigration system.
When we leave in 2019, we need to make sure we are well and truly
AR Hart auf
hart — kann nicht gut gehen.
Oxford University is #1
in the world and
is #2 in the World University
AR British paper hails
Hawker Hurricane (top)
2017 September 7
The electron has two heavier siblings. The
electron was discovered in 1897; the muon, like the electron but
with 207 times the mass, in 1936; and the tau, with 3400 times the
mass, starting in 1974. The electron, the muon, and the tau — the
charged leptons — are different flavors of the same particle.
All the fundamental fermions seem to come in three flavors, with
low, medium, and high masses. Probing flavor physics might help us
see further. One way to do so is to test lepton universality, the
principle that all leptons behave alike, so that when larger
particles decay, any leptons in the fallout should be produced in
equal proportions when their mass is accounted for.
LHC scientists studying the decays of B mesons found 25% fewer muons
than electrons produced, violating the principle of lepton
universality. If lepton universality is broken, one explanation is
that an unknown particle appears fleetingly during the meson decay
and interacts with the various decay products.
was exploring the idea that the Higgs might be composite and worked
out that if it is, then a hypothetical particle called a leptoquark
probably is too. Leptoquarks provide a fresh way to think about
flavor physics. With the mass of a composite leptoquark predicted to
be under 1 TeV, it should be possible to make them at the LHC.
AR Call this work in progress.
Reason in Islam
Christopher de Bellaigue
Palestinian philosopher Sari
Nusseibeh has mulled over what many critics of Islam consider to be
its besetting flaw: its antipathy to reason. He says reason entered
Islam through discussion and analysis of the Quran in everyday
Arabic, relying on many of the same philosophical and critical
techniques as Christian theology.
The Quran is a famously
allusive, repetitive, contradictory text. Nusseibeh says the Quran
first enabled reason to flourish in the Mideast. The slow decline of
Muslim reason came after later historical reversals that engendered
a defensive impulse to contract the intellectual world of Islam.
The high-water mark of reason in the modern Mideast came shortly
before WW1, when Egyptian Mufti Muhammad Abduh revived the
Mutazilite idea that the Quran was created, not eternal, and hence a
historical document, open to interpretation according to time and
Nusseibeh: "Given socioeconomic and political
conditions in present-day Arab society, a turn of historical
proportions is needed to give free rein to the imagination and
permit reason to conceive a new course — as happened, so long ago,
right at the beginning."
we call Mideast reason a work in progress?
2017 September 6
Artificial intelligence is the future not
only of Russia but of all of mankind. Whoever becomes the leader in
this sphere will become the ruler of the world.
Immigration can be a controversial topic.
But the action that the White House took today is about young people
who grew up in America. These Dreamers are Americans in their
hearts, in their minds, in every way but on paper.
administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these
young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our
communities and our country. We did so based on the legal principle
of prosecutorial discretion. And America grew stronger as a result.
But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and
brightest young people once again. To target these young people is
wrong. And it is cruel.
The action taken today is a political
decision. It is contrary to our spirit and to common sense.
Ultimately, this is about basic decency.
British Economy Broken
I am convinced that most people in Britain
want an economic system in the service of human flourishing and the
common good, where all are valued and all have a stake, regardless
of their perceived economic worth and ability.
Our economic model is broken and we are failing those who will
grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest
parts of the country is significant and destabilising. Half of all
households have seen no meaningful improvement in their incomes for
more than a decade.
Between 2010 and 2015, the median pay for
directors in FTSE 100 companies rose by almost a half. In communities where I have worked in northern England,
living standards have fallen.
2017 September 5
Some researchers want to reconstruct quantum
theory from a few simple principles.
Lucien Hardy focused on
the probabilities that relate the possible states of a system with
the chance of observing each state in a measurement. He assumed that
any system can be described by a list of properties and their
possible values. Then he considered the possibilities for measuring
the values definitively in a single observation.
A qubit can
be in a superposition of the states 0 or 1. If you measure a qubit,
you only ever get 1 or 0. A quantum object commonly has more states
encoded in the state vector than can be seen in practice.
This property of qubits can be reflected in in probabilistic rules
about how systems can carry information and how they can be combined
and interconverted. The simplest theory to describe such systems is
quantum mechanics, with phenomena such as interference and
entanglement, in which the properties of different objects become
A quantum reconstruction starts by listing
the probabilities that a user of the theory assigns to each of the
possible outcomes of all the measurements the user can perform on a
system. That list is the state of the system. The other ingredients
are the ways states can be transformed into one another, and the
probability of the outputs given certain inputs.
theory can be derived from axioms about information. The axioms
state that information should be localized in spacetime, that
systems should be able to encode information about each other, and
that every process should in principle be reversible, so that
information is conserved. A system governed by these rules shows all
the familiar quantum behaviors, such as superposition and
Hardy suspects there is still a deeper level to
go to in understanding quantum theory.
2017 September 4
NK — Massive Military Response
Any threat to the United States or its
territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a
massive military response, a response both effective and
We are not looking to the total annihilation of
North Korea, but we have many options to do so.
German Election Debate
The New York Times
Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz
clashed in a 97 minute exchange on refugee policy, Turkey, and
domestic security. She agreed with his statement that Turkey should
not become a member of the European Union, while he expressed doubt
about whether President Trump could deal effectively with North
Polls declared Merkel the winner. But many voters
remain uncertain about who could better lead them over the next four
years — nearly half of all German voters remained undecided.
Angela Merkel v Martin Schulz
Watching and hearing the live debate was such a delight —
clear, factual, cooperative, wide ranging, analytic, harmonious,
constructive, intelligent, and illuminating. So refreshingly
different from the polemical dissonance one hears in British TV
2017 September 3
Bournemouth Air Festival
Bournemouth East Cliff
2017-08-31 — 2017-09-03
Brits seem to love nostalgic reminders of World War 2, even just to
see overflights by aircraft of 1940 vintage that failed to prevent the
Dunkirk defeat (left).
Rain stopped play.
NoKo Nuke Test
The New York Times
North Korea carried out its sixth
nuclear test on Sunday, according to the South Korean military.
A seismic tremor emanating from the Punggye-ri underground nuclear
test had an estimated magnitude of 6.3, said the US Geological
Hours earlier, the NK state news agency said NK had
developed a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an ICBM — without
real evidence. The fourth NK nuclear test in January 2016 was
claimed to be a hydrogen bomb.
SK president Moon Jae-in and
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe called emergency meetings of
their national security councils.
Abe: "If North Korea has
conducted a nuclear test, we can never accept that."
2017 September 2
Brexit — Wipeout
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier: "No
Without such progress on the Irish
border, the divorce bill, and the rights of EU/UK citizens, there
can be no progress on a trade deal. Nothing — failure.
UK access to European markets implies EU membership, migration of
labour, and a common external tariff. The Irish border cannot be
open and free when it is an EU external border. Either the British
pay their financial obligations or they do not. These are facts, not
The chance is high that the UK will simply
crash out of the EU in March 2019 with no deal. Who would want to be
British prime minister after that, and have to tell the British
people they will be poorer, with rising prices, a falling pound, and
A wipeout for the Tories beckons.
Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff
On September 1, 1953,
William Scoville performed brain surgery on HM. From then on, HM
could no longer remember anything he did. He could not remember what
he had just eaten or find his way around the hospital. He failed to
recognize hospital staff he had met only minutes earlier.
After surgery, HM was insensitive to pleasure and pain. This is
critical to understanding his loss of memory. All of our memories
are subjective. The loss of pleasure and pain is a loss of
subjectivity, which HM lost when Scoville removed his hippocampus.
The hippocampus is essential to convert short-term memories to
The hippocampus is made up of cells with
different functions. Place cells respond to location in space,
creating mental maps of the environment. Other cells help establish
our relationships to many other types of environmental and internal
stimuli. Hippocampal neurons convey relationships to our
Our memories are created from the point of
view of the individual who is remembering. We have a sense of self
because we have a preexisting sense of our body that contains that
self. The basis of our subjectivity is our body image, which the
brain creates from our movements and from the sensory responses to
When memories are first formed, they are
short-term and unstable. With time, the physical representation of
the memory in the brain formed by the synaptic junctions between
neurons becomes more stable. The stabilized memories then become
long-term memories. Even long-term memories are dynamic. Each time
the brain tries to activate a memory trace, the nature of that trace
changes. Memories are altered every time the brain recalls them.
2017 September 1
Russia believes that the policy of putting
pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is
misguided and futile. The region's problems should only be settled
through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any
preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting
rhetoric are a dead-end road. The situation on the Korean peninsula
is balancing on the brink of a large-scale conflict.
Hubble Finds Water Near Trappist-1
Jon von Radowitz
Astronomers say Hubble Space Telescope
data suggests life might have evolved on planets orbiting
Trappist-1, a dwarf star 40 light years from the Sun. A total of 7
planets similar in size to Earth orbit the star in its habitable
zone — and now it seems the outer planets still have plenty of
UV radiation can dry planets out by breaking
up its water molecules. Levels of UV radiation emitted by Trappist-1
suggest its inner planets could have lost 30 Yg of water in the last
250 Ps. But its outer planets may have lost less than 4 Yg
of water, leaving oceans on their surfaces.
AR See blog 2017-02-23 and 2017-05-13.
From dolphins to slime moulds,
organisms throughout the evolutionary tree seem to make sense of the
world mathematically, deciphering its patterns and regularities in
order to survive.
Any form of life that
interacts with its environment needs an implicit model of that
environment to function. Yet these living modelers are unaware of
what they are doing. Even we human beings are unconsciously doing
some pretty complex mathematics when we run or catch a ball.
Humans invented numbers. Our symbolic language for mathematics
allows us not only to overcome certain limitations of our
subconscious mind but also to explore abstract concepts in depth and
communicate them to others. Perhaps we are born with a conscious
sense of numbers in the same way we are conscious of colors.
Humans have built an immense pyramid of mathematical knowledge. The
more we learn about the hidden workings of the universe, the more
such mathematical innovation seems to describe the things we see.
The success of mathematics as a language speaks to its primacy in
the organization of the universe.
Max Tegmark thinks the
universe is a mathematical structure that we are slowly uncovering
to reveal the reality. He says the biggest hurdle is a mathematical
description of consciousness: "That's going to be the final test of
the hypothesis that it's all mathematics."
AR I've done that bit — see my book
North Korea threatens Japan
Black Rock Desert
2017-08-27 — 2017-09-04
Bournemouth beach on
Sterling sank yesterday
to €1.0835. Before the
vote on 23 June
£1 could buy €1.31.
International Space Station
photobombs solar eclipse
Totality from a
Bannon the Barbarian
is back at
"Steve is now unchained"
"He's going nuclear"
Activist and Nobel
Malala Yousafzai wins place
to study PPE at Oxford
2017 August 31
Brexit — Deadlock
Brexit talks are deadlocked as the UK and EU
negotiating teams fail to make progress in critical areas. The
biggest stumbling block is the divorce bill. The UK and the EU
cannot agree on how to calculate it. The two sides may not make
sufficient progress by October to move onto trade talks about the
future UK-EU relationship.
Theresa May: "We have been
publishing a series of papers over the summer. There will be more
papers to come, where we are setting out the key issues that both
sides need to address, the options that we have, the ideas we have,
of how to deal with those."
2017 August 30
Physics of Extremists
We looked at the shapes of the distributions
of terrorist attacks. Given 9/11 and an attack half that size — that
gives you the statistical distribution. When you plot the frequency
of events versus the size of events, you get a straight line with a
slope of 2.5 for conflicts and terrorism.
Loose groups that
come together and then sense danger might fight and then break up
and scatter in all directions. Almost like fish in the sea, they
build into schools and when a predator comes along they scatter.
We took those two features and we built a mathematical model for
collections of objects that try to coalesce into groups, and then
when they detect imminent danger break apart. And then they form up
again, then break apart. The equations gave a power law distribution
for the sizes of the clusters with a slope of 2.5.
form themselves into online groups to exchange information. Like the
fish under the sea, they slowly build up into groups and then the
groups get shut down by the moderators, in which case they scatter.
The size distribution of the groups is a power law with exponent
People who become extremist more quickly do so in a
predictable way. The ones who take longer to cook tend to fluctuate
around more. The tendency for people to flock together and then
break up is common to any human activity that is under stress.
2017 August 29
NK v Japan
North Korea has fired a missile over Japan. Prime
minister Shinzo Abe calls it the "most serious and grave ever"
threat to the country.
The missile was fired just before 6 am
in Japan. The launch set off warnings in northern Japan urging
people to seek shelter. It flew over Hokkaido and broke up before
falling into the Pacific Ocean a little more than 1 Mm off the
Japanese coast. The missile was in flight for a little less than
Japan's UN ambassador Koro Bessho: "The international
community has to put more pressure on North Korea."
Dutch nuclear research institute NRG has
launched the Salt Irradiation Experiment (SALIENT) in collaboration
with the EU Commission. The researchers will use thorium as a fuel
for a molten salt reactor, a next-generation design for nuclear
power. Molten salt reactors can achieve very high temperatures,
boosting the efficiency of the power generation process.
Other will join the thorium club. A US startup based in Utah is
developing a thorium reactor, and Utah's Seven County Infrastructure
Coalition is seeking experts to evaluate a thorium energy facility
for producing electricity. By the end of the year, the Kalpakkam
thorium test reactor in India may start generating energy.
AR I have been pushing for more thorium
power R and D for years.
2017 August 28
Brexit — Soft Option
A Conservative government with a delusional
policy on Brexit is hastening the UK toward an exit from the EU that
could devastate the economy.
Labour's new Brexit policy is
that Britain must remain inside the single market and the customs
union for a transitional period. The transitional period will be as
short as possible but as long as necessary. During that time,
existing single market and customs union terms would continue to
apply. Labour wants the soft option.
Labour is now more
electable. Labour MPs can work with the many Conservatives who want
a softer Brexit. This is a moment of hope.
Brexit — Brussels Anger
Christoph B. Schiltz
First the UK irritated the EU
because it failed to explain what it wanted at Brexit. Now as the
third round of negotiations begin the ideas are coming — and
Brussels is angry.
According to Article 50, at midnight on 29
March 2019, the UK is out. The EU Parliament says cherry picking is
not on. The size of the Brexit bill, the rights of EU citizens, and
the Irish question should be decided by October.
is still open.
2017 August 27
Grave Systemic Crisis
Philip Zelikow has served Republican and Democratic presidents
and was executive director of the 9/11 commission. He says the Bush,
Obama, and Trump administrations have all been lured by the threat
of Islamic terrorism into "broken wilderness areas of the world"
that are unlikely to change the course of world history in any
Zelikow says catalytic change comes only after
a systemic crisis when people all over the world no longer think the
old order works. We are on the brink of just such a crisis now,
triggered by the digital revolution and the spread of Islamic
extremism and much else.
The West no longer has the secret
sauce: the growth rate is a grinding 2%, the returns go to the top
0.1%, and the public and private debt just keeps piling up. Anyone
who wants to take umbrage at anything shrieks "hate speech!" — the
modern term for heresy.
The world is probably slouching
toward a grave systemic crisis.
Sperm Counts Plummeting
Men in North America, Europe, Australia and New
Zealand have suffered a 52% decline in sperm concentration and a 59%
decline in total sperm count between 1973 and 2011.
AR Blame hot pants — free the scrotum!
2017 August 26
Germany Military Leadership
Germany is an integral member of NATO.
From 1945 to 1989, the US army gave West Germany the safety and
security to develop a uniquely successful political culture. But
there are reasons to doubt continuing American support. Germany
should make its own plans to deal with threats.
the military and diplomatic power to keep Europe safe from future
Russian aggression. Germans once confronted the problem of
unification, and they spent time and resources on solving it. But
when it comes to problems in the wider region, Germany has been
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has made the
already low German defense budget an electoral issue. Given the poor
condition of German armed forces, this seems irresponsible. Germans
should work with the EU to create a multinational force that can
defend EU borders.
Brexit threatens to cause confusion in
Northern Ireland. Since 1998, Catholics in Northern Ireland have
shared Irish citizenship. But when an EU external border runs
through the island of Ireland, they will become EU citizens outside
In 20 years of relative peace, the island of
Ireland has become a single economic entity. But if the UK ends up
leaving the EU single market and customs union, a border control
regime will have to be reintroduced. This will cause tensions.
Irish and Northern Irish Catholics would like to see Northern
Ireland remain part of both the UK and the EU. London and the EU27
would have to agree, as too would Northern Irish Protestants, most
of whom are diehard loyalists.
A New Political Party
Many people in the UK have decried the idea of a new, pro-EU
political party. But the simple
fact is that the 48% of people who voted Remain don't have a party
they can vote for. So market forces tell you there is a big, obvious
market for a new, centrist, pro-EU party.
this new party seems to be forming in a tearing hurry — the
presumption being it will have to be up and running if/when the
Brexit shit hits the fan and the population looks for something new — I fear things will be
overlooked as people seek to form an instant structure.
most useful thing would be a pamphlet.
It would do us good to return to the era of the thoughtful, well-reasoned pamphlet. Every generation should start at
the beginning again and remind itself that the basis of any
democratic system is a series of philosophical questions.
2017 August 25
The rise of internet platforms promised mass
participation in the public sphere. This felt and functioned like
freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation. This
contradiction is foundational to what internet companies are.
Social platforms refer to their customers as users or members of
a community. Their leaders are prone to statesmanlike posturing, and
content moderation and behavioral guidelines are likewise rendered
in the terms of legal governance. Questions about how platforms deal
with disruptive users and offensive content are met by invoking free
These companies draw arbitrary boundaries against
spammers, concerning profanity, or in response to government
demands. Social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than
German Left parliamentarian Gregor Gysi is bothered
by the slow demise of free body culture (FKK) in Germany: "We need to
make FKK possible at more places. It would be a great benefit."
After reunification, FKK began to dwindle even in East Germany.
Gysi quotes a sex researcher who says West German men are
responsible for the decline by ogling women: "Women didn't want to
be looked at. They wanted to be free."
Gysi wants to see more
nude beaches in Germany because FKK is part of German culture and an
aspect of freedom: "A one-piece swimsuit or a bikini may be
uncomfortable for some."
Taking Back Control
The UK prime minister says the UK parliament
will make laws, UK judges will interpret them, and the UK supreme
court will be ultimate arbiter in disputes over them. The UK will be
outside the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
Without the CJEU check on power, the unwritten UK constitution
gives the government tremendous power to push through its own
policies. A government with a large parliamentary majority is
sovereign. The House of Commons has unchecked power. The House of
Lords has no veto over legislation, and parliament can block a UK
court from hearing a judicial review against the government.
The CJEU has at times acted on behalf of UK citizens over the UK
government. It has put environmental issues into EU law and has
helped to create important rights for UK citizens. Now the UK
government will take back control.
2017 August 24
Rule Britannia — Not
HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry 60 fighter
aircraft. But the the American F-35B jump-jets planned for it are
too expensive. So the Royal Navy flagship will have to make do with
12 or fewer.
Brexit Britain is billed as Global Britain. No
one knows why giving up on Europe will enhance British standing
elsewhere. Now ministers admit they cannot afford a hard Brexit.
Britain will leave the EU customs union but the government wants
to replicate its arrangements. The ECJ will be out but
Britain will accept another court that takes its
lead from the ECJ. Britain will be out of the single market
but a "deep and special" partnership will ensure frictionless
Brexiteers think international trade is about
tariffs. Today standards and norms are what really matter. Services
too need common rules and mutual recognition.
the government wants to cut numbers to below a net 100,000 a year —
but hospitals will not lose EU doctors and nurses, farmers will
still have cheap eastern European labour, and foreign bankers and
tech wizards will always be welcome.
Most ministers know that
Brexit comes with a hefty cost, but are unwilling to say so to
voters. So they promise to make a success of what they know will be
Britain could just join the United States. After
all, the first jets to fly from the Queen Elizabeth will belong to
the US Marines. But Donald Trump takes the shine off that idea.
2017 August 23
Total Eclipse of the Presidency
In Arizona, President Donald Trump revisited his
response to violence in Charlottesville and reignited the culture
He blamed "weak, weak people" for allowing removal of
statues commemorating the Confederacy:
"They're trying to take
away our culture. They're trying to take away our history."
On the protests in Charlottesville:
"The only people giving a
platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news
I hit 'em with neo-Nazi, I hit 'em with everything. KKK? We
have KKK. I got 'em all."
On the failed vote to repeal and
replace Obamacare and Arizona senator John McCain:
away, I will not mention any names."
A swipe at Arizona
senator Jeff Flake: "Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows
who the hell he is. And now, we haven't mentioned any names, so now,
"I think we'll probably end up
terminating NAFTA at some point .. Believe me, if we have to close
down our government, we're building that wall."
majority leader Mitch McConnell doubts whether Trump can lead the
Republican Party into the mid-term elections and beyond.
US Military Coup
With his speech on Monday about
increasing troop deployment to Afghanistan and US policy in
South Asia, US President Trump surrendered to the military. His
generals — chief of staff John Kelly, defense secretary James
Mattis, and national security advisor H.R. McMaster — hold him
In 1961, US President and former D-Day supreme
commander Dwight Eisenhower warned against this: "In the councils of
government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted
influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial
complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power
exists and will persist."
A military takeover from Trump is a step forward.
2017 August 22
Afghanistan, Pakistan, India
We have been paying Pakistan billions and
billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very
terrorists we are fighting. That must change immediately.
appreciate India's important contributions to stability in
Afghanistan but India makes billions of dollars in trade from the
United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan,
especially in the area of economic assistance and development.
AR The US must get tougher than this
US 0, China 2
In his last interview before he
was fired, Steve Bannon said the US was engaged in an economic war
with China. His exit shows Beijing is winning.
Goal 1 for
China — President Donald Trump decided to abandon the Trans-Pacific
Partnership. The TPP would have locked the US and China's largest
Asian trading partners in a formidable economic bloc from which
Beijing was initially excluded.
No US goal — Trump did not
confront the One China policy or declare China a currency
manipulator. His administration has just launched a probe into
alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property, but it will probably
drag on for a year.
Goal 2 for China — Beijing has avoided
any economic disruptions with the US ahead of a Communist party
congress this autumn that will inaugurate the second term in office
for President Xi Jinping.
Trump has cost the US another trillion dollars.
Brexit — Yes
Our report estimate that the gains from a
full Brexit will be £135 billion: a 7% boost to GDP and a rise the
growth rate. Elements in the calculation: free trade, pragmatic
regulation, zero EU payments, and no more cost to the taxpayer of
the subsidy paid to unskilled EU immigrants.
have triggered howls of protest and derision from economists. They
assume Brexit UK will be protectionist and they use a "gravity" model
in which trade is a function of the size and proximity of trading
The UK government is committed to free trade and
the UK economy shows growth toward net exports away from
consumption. The gravity model cannot account for the surge in our
service exports all around the world or our huge trade with
Brexit — No
Molly Scott Cato
The model estimating a big boost from a
hard Brexit is voodoo economics. It is based on the UK unilaterally
removing all restrictions and tariffs and trying our luck in a
global market. This would lead to a massive fall in wages and the
end of UK manufacturing.
That model has no credibility. The
view of the EU as a costly protectionist club has been debunked. In
the real world, proximity, common standards, and rapid movement of
components matter. The report is based on the illusion that the UK
can stand alone in a globalized world.
2017 August 21
Future of Life Institute
● Tesla founder Elon Musk and
Google DeepMind man Mustafa Suleyman:
autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in
warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be
fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than
humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that
despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons
hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act.
Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close."
AR Respect the rule of law [lethal
Brexit — Cold Autumn
Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar says it
has proved too difficult to close the differences in the opening
rounds of talks between the EU and the UK. In October the European
Council, on which Cerar sits, will decide by unanimity whether
sufficient progress has been made on three key issues for talks to
begin on trade.
Brexit — A Champion
The EU single market is a fortress protected by high external
tariff walls. The big issue today is not tariffs but standards.
Britain has a strong interest in trying to lead the world into
services liberalisation. Britain can champion a shift toward an
approach based on principles, focused on outcomes, and friendly to
A Clean Brexit
There will be no soft Brexit when the UK
leaves the EU. A second referendum would be a distraction and
perpetuate uncertainty. The EU must comply with the WTO trade
facilitation agreement. Matters regarding interpretation of an
interim agreement must be settled via an independent tribunal, not
by the ECJ.
A Brexit Court
Britain could both withdraw from the ECJ and accept EU demands
for independent judicial oversight of a future deal. EFTA court
president Carl Baudenbacher proposes that the UK agree to accept the
jurisdiction of the EFTA court, which oversees the EU relationship
with Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
"The big difficulty is that the EFTA court takes its lead from the
ECJ, and while its rulings are technically advisory, in practice
they take direct effect in the countries concerned. That would be
AR UK — a law
unto itself — a.k.a. rogue state.
2017 August 20
Brexit — Legal Confusion?
Brexiteers vilify the European Court of
Justice (ECJ). But the ECJ in Luxembourg scored a win for the City
of London when it ruled that the ECB was wrong to insist that euro
clearing houses should be based in the EZ.
The European Court
of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is the one that ruled on
prisoners' voting rights and that obstructed the path of UK efforts
to deport Abu Qatada.
Brexiteers hate letting a foreign court
tell British courts what to do. But the ECJ only interprets the
meaning of EU law. The UK courts apply that interpretation to the
Given the proximity of the UK customs union with the
EU customs union, any judgments of the ECJ on the EU customs union
will put UK courts under a strong obligation to interpret UK law in
the light of ECJ judgments.
After Brexit, any future ECJ
judgments will be drafted without the benefit of British judges
sitting on its bench and British lawyers arguing the case. The UK
has punched above its weight in getting its way — all that will be
2017 August 19
What the surfer knows, in knowing how to ride
a wave, bears on questions about freedom, control,
happiness, society, our relation to nature, the value of work, and
the meaning of life.
For someone to be surfing, three
conditions must be met:
1 He must be
attuned to a shifting phenomenon outside of himself, like a wave.
2 He must be adapting himself in
response to it, so as to be carried along by its propulsive forces.
3 He must be doing so intentionally and
for its own sake.
Adaptive attunement captures a meaningful
sense of freedom consistent with being trapped by the laws of
nature. Freedom is a matter of transcending your will and
accepting the exchange between what you intend to do and what you
are constrained to do by the forces around you. You take what the
wave gives you.
On my first retreat I had an experience
that bordered on hallucinogenic. At first I was, like, whoa. I mean,
this is my first retreat, right? And at first it's like red and
purple and I'm like: Whoa, this is a new place. What I observed was
actually in a sense that thought, except that what it looked like
was one entity saying it to another, and I realized it was kind of
like the inside of my mind.
Our ordinary way of seeing things
is pretty deeply confused. You have apprehensions that are quite
different from your ordinary way of experiencing things. Like you're
meditating on a retreat, and you feel that the tingling in your foot
is no more a part of you than a bird that's singing.
2017 August 18
Germany is a rich country, with the
highest income per head of the larger EU countries, comfortably
ahead of Britain, France, and Italy. Unemployment is the lowest in
But the disparities between rich and poor loom large
for many Germans, who have long believed they live in an
unusually fair society, after WW2 swept away old elites and left a
more equal country.
On household income, Germany is close to
the EU average. But on wealth, Germany is significantly less equal
than its EU peers. The gap has widened for the same reasons as
elsewhere — globalization and technological change.
than half of Germans own their own homes. The rest rent. The market
delivers affordable housing but discourages investment in home
— German state pensions are generous for most
people who are employed full-time for most of their working lives.
They are a reliable way of financing old age.
inheritance tax law favors business owners. The rules largely exempt
fortunes invested in productive companies as long as the heirs
promise to maintain jobs.
Parliamentary elections in
September offer Germans a chance to make their voices heard. SPD
leader Martin Schulz pledges to raise taxes on the well-paid to
finance tax cuts for those on lower incomes. Chancellor
Angela Merkel offers tax cuts for all, funded from the budget
Trump — Toast
Before composing his ode to the statues of
Confederate leaders, Donald Trump tore into two Republican senators
who had dared to criticize him for what he said about
Charlottesville. To get any trade or tax legislation through
Congress, the White House will need the overwhelming support of
Republicans in Congress. Even assuming that Trump will survive this
latest horror show, he has moved onto political ground that makes it
virtually impossible for other people to stand with him.
Steve Bannon — Fired
2017 August 17
We're at economic war with China. They're
not shy about saying what they're doing. One of us is going to be a
hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this
path. On Korea, they're just tapping us along. It's just a sideshow.
There’s no military solution to North Korea,
forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows
me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes
from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about,
there's no military solution here, they got us.
To me, the
economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally
focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're 5 years away, I
think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from
which we'll never be able to recover.
Bacteria have a DNA repair mechanism
for when their genomes are damaged. Dozens of genes become active
and the rate of mutation goes up. The extra mutations are often
detrimental but they enable adaptation.
be a mechanism that drives more mutation in regions of the genome
where it could be most adaptive. DNA often contains multiple copies
of extended sequences of base pairs or genes because mistakes can
occur when cells replicate their DNA. If the replication mechanism
stalls, usually it can restart and pick up where it left off.
Sometimes it goes back to the beginning and accidentally deletes a
gene sequence or makes extra copies of it. Perhaps these copying
errors are more likely to hit genes that are actively responding to
This mechanism can arise entirely
through Darwinian selection of random mutations to give a process
that stimulates nonrandom mutations at useful sites.
HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth
— its F-35B aircraft have not yet been built
The US commander-in-chief
is giving succor to Neonazis.
democracy is heading
toward civil breakdown.
German GDP grew 0.6% in Q2
and 0.7% in Q1.
was in line with EZ average.
growth was 2.1%.
ING economist Carsten Brzeski:
"There is very
little reason to
fear a sudden end to the
"The only way to preserve
free and frictionless trade
European Union is
continued membership of
the customs union,
as the single market."
Americans believe in heaven
miracles. Surveys show
the reality-based community
minority in America.
Being American means
we can believe
No No To Nukes
The American public would
not stop a
using nuclear weapons in war. Under pressures like
facing President Harry Truman
in 1945, a clear majority
the public would support the
first use of nukes now,
it did then.
with 2 x Taurus
The ROK Air
attack NK hard targets with
Taurus KEPD 350, an
made in Germany
"Cometh the hour,
cometh the Mogg"
Rolf Peter Sieferle
2017 August 16
Charlottesville, Virginia, last Friday
night: White nationalists brandished torches, chanted Nazi slogans,
and waved a banner: "Jews are Satan's children."
Grand Wizard David Duke: "The truth is, the American media, and the
American political system, and the American Federal Reserve, is
dominated by a tiny minority: the Jewish Zionist cause .. We're
going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."
luminary Richard Spencer mocked Charlottesville's Jewish mayor Mike
Signer: "Little Mayor Signer — 'See-ner' — how do you pronounce this
little creep's name?"
Crowd: "Jew, Jew, Jew."
I was not surprised to learn that Google
fired James Damore. I think he made a number of errors. Research on
differences in the sexes finds them to be quite small, and they do
not show women are less fitted for roles in technology and
The notion that there is something
right wing about discussing genes is ridiculous. What we are
learning about genes and behavior is a more serious challenge to the
right than to the left. There is a connection between genes and
No argument gets far by ignoring science and common
sense. Far from supporting racism, genetic research questions
whether race even exists. Debating the relationship between nature
and social outcomes helps us understand discrimination.
some people are naturally less able to make their way in the world
than others, then it may not be enough to allow equal opportunity.
Genes make the case for redistribution. Progressives need not fear
acknowledging the role of genes.
In Russia and Belarus, preparations are underway for
Zapad, a major military exercise to be held in September. Of all the
exercises in the Russian military calendar, quadrennial Zapad is the
one that most closely resembles practice for invading neighbors.
The United States, NATO, and states
bordering Russia will be watching closely to learn what they can
about the latest Russian capabilities and military procedures.
Russia has previously used the fact of troops on the move for
exercises to launch real military operations.
Belarus is an
ally of Russia but has no antagonism toward the West and wants
instead to remain neutral between Russia and NATO. The authorities
in Minsk have invited military observers and defense attachés from a
large number of countries and international organizations.
NATO states have made small temporary increases in defensive assets
in the Baltic states as a precaution.
The UK government Brexit paper on future
customs arrangements accepts the UK will need a transitional customs
union to avoid a catastrophic shock in March 2019. DExEU SoS David
Davis calls the lack of detail "constructive ambiguity".
maintain frictionless trade with the EU, the UK will need to
continue the regulation that underpins the single market. Beyond the
transition period, the plans envisage either a streamlined customs
arrangement using new technology or a new customs partnership that
can reliably track goods through international supply chains.
Commission says only membership of the customs union and single
market will deliver frictionless trade.
Brexit Britain — Urbane, Unhinged
Hollywood saw long ago that a British accent
makes a fine complement to evil villainy. The center ground of
British politics is gone. Beyond our shores, no one thinks Brexit is
consistent with the nobler traditions of British statecraft.
Tory radicals cast themselves as swashbuckling
adventurers, freeing the UK to find riches on the high seas. But
another archetype casts Brexiteers as fanatics urging chaos in
honeyed tones, sheathing villainy in gentility.
AR Beware of the Mogg.
2017 August 15
Have Cake And Eat It
The UK government will seek a temporary deal
with the EU for a few years after Brexit.
A deal with the EU
to retain the benefits of customs union for a transitional period
would give businesses and officials time to gear up for a new
customs regime and give the UK time to strike new trade deals with
non-EU countries. During the transition Britain would not be party
to the EU treaties.
The EU will have to decide whether it
would accept such an arrangement.
No Right Case For Brexit
Jacob Rees-Mogg is an authentic
reactionary. A rampant Brexiteer and a Trump defender, he is a
hard-right Tory, from climate-change denial to praise for disability
cuts, from attacking the BBC to abhorrence of regulation.
wants to cut taxes. He says this brings in more revenue: "Generally
people will spend their own money more effectively than the
government, and there is no money at all except that earned by the
Wrong. We need a strong state to guarantee
property rights, basic public services for the workforce, and so on.
Try running a business in a failed state.
No Left Case For Brexit
If Labour supporters want a glimpse of what their
2017 election manifesto would look like in practice, they only need
to cross the Channel.
In France, university tuition is funded
by the taxpayer. In Portugal and Slovakia, domestic energy consumers
enjoy price caps. In Germany, there is a network of public savings
banks. In Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, train
companies are public. In Luxembourg and Belgium, there are no
zero-hour contracts. In Sweden and Denmark, the state takes half of
national income in tax.
The EU is a bastion of social
democracy. The Leftist case for Brexit is flimsy. The idea that
the EU is a neoliberal project is daft.
AR No good case on either side for Brexit.
2017 August 14
America — Locked and Loaded
Donald Trump's threats that North Korea
risks fire and fury from a locked and loaded America put American
credibility on the line and prompts escalation by the Kim Jong Un
regime. He is flirting with a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. All
previous presidents have rejected pre-emptive attacks on
The crisis that Trump is stoking is
increasingly inseparable from the domestic problems besieging his
administration. The investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian
intervention in the US election is getting ever closer to the Trump
inner circle. Congress is deadlocked and the White House is a hive
of sackings and scheming.
The idea that the threat of war
could lead Americans to rally around the president should sound
alarm bells for anyone with a sense of history. Governments facing a
domestic crisis are often more inclined to adventurism abroad.
Leaders under severe domestic political pressure are also more
likely to behave irrationally.
James Damore: "Philosophically, I don't
think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make
it appealing to equal portions of both men and women."
engineer in Google, Damore wrote a memo full of of bad science and
biological determinism. He said women are intrinsically different to
men, with more openness, interest in people over things, preference
for social and artistic work, neuroticism and anxiety, and so on.
Science is a slow process, not a growing string of truths.
Damore portrays women as a product of inherited traits without
social and cultural influence. His assertions presume gender
identity happens in a cultural vacuum.
Damore: "We ask why we
don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we
see so many men in these jobs, These positions often require long,
stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and
Men do not have biological predisposition
toward stressful hours any more than women do. A balanced and
fulfilling life is different if you do most of the domestic labor
and child rearing. An aggressively masculine "bro" culture makes
those long office hours even worse.
Free the Queen!
Britain's most troubled family is way past its sell-by date and
living on borrowed time. We should consign the UK to the dustbin of
history and embrace the future as the British Republic.
Ending the monarchy is not the most pressing challenge confronting
these islands. Yet in its own little way the dusty institution is a
block to decency and progress. Royal inherited wealth and habits of
deference give respectability to unearned riches and grotesque
Criticism of royalty is not
treason. In an age of austerity there are better
ways to spend £369 million than tarting up Buckingham Palace. The
royals live in a gilded cage — free them!
2017 August 13
Conservatism is the attempt to conserve our community in all
matters that ensure our long-term survival and mutual support.
Peace, security, democracy, and historic liberties all depend on
a shared sense of belonging among strangers whom we can trust; on
traditions of education, cooperation, and compromise; on the
Christian legacy of neighbourly love and a tradition of tolerance.
They depend upon institutions and forms of life that are the legacy
of our attempts to live together as a nation on our island.
Changes have occurred that can unwind those relations of dependence:
● The mass immigration of
communities who define their political membership in religious
rather than secular terms
● The transfer of sovereignty
from parliament to unelected officials in foreign countries
and foreign courts of law
● The disruption of the common
law by the abolition of the tutelary office of lord chancellor
and the creation of a supreme court
● The assault on national
unity caused by creating a Scottish parliament while leaving the
English with no assembly of their own
politicians have a duty to articulate the idea of a diverse but
unified civil society and its corporate persona. We have blundered
into a condition of mass immigration with no philosophy to justify
the attempt to limit it.
In the Brexit vote, the only ideas
that emerged were economic, as though the "we" of national
sovereignty were merely a matter of being as wealthy as we possibly
can. Reducing every question to economics is the fundamental error
of the Marxists.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is an unlikely outsider. His
old-world civility does not suggest much appeal to young voters. But
at 48 he is social-media savvy and benefits from suggestions that
the Conservatives should skip a generation.
As a constituency MP I am always seeking to
represent the people remote from the centres of power, rather than
the interests of lobby groups.
The problem with the European
Union is we can be outvoted by a qualified majority vote and
therefore laws can be passed that the British people have not only
not consented to but have opposed. Some Remoaners think that the
people that voted for Brexit were all stupid.
back-bench MP. My ambition is to be re-elected in North East
Somerset. It would be unrealistic of me to have further ambitions.
I'm very interested in political ideas, developing Conservative
thinking, and I'm very keen that we should have a positive message
My family is the most important thing. I've
got six lovely, delightful children. I'm very lucky. I have a
wonderful wife who looks after us all.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is a reactionary with the intellectual
nimbleness of a top QC and the opinions of a Colonel Blimp. On
Europe, his instincts would take Britain crashing out with no deal
A British Crisis
Britain is suffering a governability
crisis. The implementation of the EU referendum decision has been
rash and chaotic. The EU is a coalition of democratic states which
pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law, and democratic
rules. That is the team to be in.
2017 August 12
Loosely translated, ikigai is your
purpose in life, from the Japanese iki (to live) and
It's your reason for getting up in the morning.
An ikigai is something that gives you pleasure and purpose —
walking the dog, drinking green tea, or writing a book.
Memory of Justice is a long (2 h 38 m) documentary directed by
Marcel Ophuls about wartime atrocities that has rarely been seen
since 1976. In it, the Nazi leaders, one after the other, declared
their innocence in the Nuremberg courtroom; Yehudi Menuhin said he
assumed every human being was guilty; and Telford Taylor, US counsel
for the prosecution at Nuremberg, asked how any of us would cope
with the degeneration of standards under pressure.
a superb interviewer, often skeptical, never moralistic or
aggressive. Perhaps his most disturbing interview was with Otto
Kranzbühler, who was defense counsel for Admiral Dönitz at Nuremberg
and later had a successful career as a corporate lawyer. Kranzbühler
said of the Third Reich: if you were ignorant of what went on, you
were a fool; if you knew, but looked the other way, you were a
coward; if you knew, and took part, you were a criminal.
AR I watched (parts of) a serialization
of the movie on TV in Germany (or the whole of a short cut —
2017 August 11
UK Homeless Crisis
UK homelessness is rising. Unless changes
are made, the number of people made homeless in Britain will double
to 575,000 by 2041. Homelessness has already doubled since 2010.
When local council budgets were cut,
housing support services suffered. When housing benefit was removed
for young people, many were forced onto the streets. When a cap was
imposed on the maximum amount a household can receive in welfare,
housing benefit was cut.
The charity Crisis suggests remedial
— A 60% increase in new housing
— Adequate funding
for local councils
— Mental health support for rough sleepers
We must press the government to address the crisis.
UK Rental Crisis
Millions of UK tenants are living in homes
that contain dangerous safety hazards and are unfit for habitation.
Over a quarter of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet
the national Decent Homes Standard.
English Housing Survey data reveals 795,000 homes rented from
private landlords currently contain hazards such as dangerous
boilers, exposed wiring, overloaded electricity sockets, and vermin
Private landlords are significantly worse at
maintaining their properties than homeowners or social housing
providers and are more than twice as likely as social landlords to
be renting out a property containing a serious safety hazard.
Local councils are struggling. LGA housing spokesman Martin
Tett: "Councils need more resources from government to help councils
build more homes for rent, supported by adequate infrastructure and
services, and incentives to help raise standards in the private
Private rents have risen by 22% since 2010.
Between a third and a half of renting households say they struggle
to pay their rent each month. Yet they are fearful of voicing
concerns. Over 50,000 private renting households were put at risk of
eviction in 2016, and almost 20,000 private renting households were
evicted by bailiffs.
A government spokesman: "While the
number of homes failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard has gone
down since 2007, we know there's more to do."
Brexit Bill — Liberty Loss
Britons will lose their right to sue the government for breaking
the law over air pollution. At present an ECJ ruling enables
citizens to sue member states for damages if their rights are
infringed by a failure to implement EU law.
A proposal in the EU repeal bill would invalidate claims
against the government for failing to enforce EU air pollution
standards. At present the government is potentially liable under
what is known as the Francovich ruling.
A clause in the
repeal bill: "There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day
to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich."
Liberty director Martha Spurrier: "Putting the government above the
law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear
agenda to water down our rights after Brexit."
AR Strong state — cowed citizens
become bullets and bombs devotedly defending respected Supreme
Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un!"
Pyongyang, August 9
"They will be met with fire
and fury like the
has never seen"
Donald Trump, 2017
"They may expect a rain
from the air,
the like of which has
never been seen"
Harry Truman, 1945
Lofoten Links, Norway
lässt das deutsche
"To Irish republicans, Brexit
is a golden opportunity for
Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar
says Brexit is the challenge
our generation: "We will do all
we can, in Brussels, in London,
and in Dublin, to achieve the
best outcome for everyone
The Lovell radio telescope at
is 60 years old
Dow Jones index over
Apple valued at $827 billion
Ripples in Spacetime
Schilling, Martin Rees
The Laser Interferometer
(LIGO) was conceived decades
bankrolled by the NSF.
By 2015, about a thousand
working on the project, racking
up costs of more
than a billion
dollars. LIGO detected waves
from colliding black
2015 and announced the
discovery in 2016.
As an undergraduate at
Cambridge, Ramsey befriended
from German into English and
Cambridge. Ramsey proved his
theorem as a lemma
along the way to solving a
special case of
problem for first-order logic.
Ramsey died in 1930,
2017 August 10
Korea and the Kim dynasty are standing up to
a powerful and menacing foreign enemy. Nukes are needed to repel
this threat. Kim Jong Un is the anointed defender of all Koreans,
the purest of all races.
The NK regime plans to
use large numbers of nuclear weapons against US forces throughout
Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion. NK leaders hope that by
inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a
conflict, they can force US-SK leaders to recoil from their
America has four broad options for dealing with
An all-out US-SK attack would defeat NK military forces and topple
the Kim dynasty. It would be the most massive US military attack
since the first Korean war and would likely trigger one of the worst
mass killings in human history. It would depend on surprise and
speed — but the Kim dynasty has been on the alert for three
generations. Even if the strike succeeded, it would cause the
largest humanitarian crisis of modern times.
Punishment. The US response to the next NK
provocation could be sharp enough to set back the regime but not
massive. Key to a limited strike is the pause that comes after. Kim
and his generals would have time to think. But once the shooting
starts, containing it may be difficult. Even if Kim did perceive
limited intent in a first strike, he would correctly see it as an
assault on his nuclear arsenal and a step on a road to regime
change. He would expect a wider war.
US and SK troops recently rehearsed a strike to remove the NK
wartime command structure. The US-SK war plan calls for strikes
targeting NK leaders. But decapitation would be a huge gamble.
4 Acceptance. There are
no good military options. Pyongyang is constrained by the same logic
that has stayed the use of nuclear arms for some 70 years. It is
hard to imagine Pyongyang disarming anytime soon, but creating a
framework that makes it conceivable is the only sensible way
2017 August 9
The New York Times
draft report by scientists from 13 US federal agencies, not yet
made public, concludes that the average temperature in the United
States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent
decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.
report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at
least an additional 0.3 K of warming over this century compared with
today. The projected actual rise will be 2 K.
directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his
cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is
uncertain. Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration
could change or suppress the report.
How The Moon Was Made
Some 4.5 Gy ago, the young
Sun was surrounded by a hot, donut-shaped cloud of debris. This
stuff swirled around, cooling and combining into clumps, then
planetesimals, then planets. These bodies frequently collided and
vaporized one another anew, until the Earth and the Moon were
Theia, a body the size of Mars, collided with Earth.
The collision produced a disk around the Earth that cooled and
solidified to form the Moon. Simulations show Theia could shear away
enough of Earth and scramble enough of both to build a Moon and
Earth with similar isotopic ratios.
Simon Lock and Sarah
Stewart say every bit of Earth and Theia vaporized and formed a
bagel-shaped cloud they call a synestia. The cloud spun so fast that
it became a fat disk circling an inner region. The fat disk was a
cloud of molten rock that eventually cooled to form the Moon.
The Moon is unique in the solar system in having about 1% the
mass of Earth and 80% of the angular momentum of the Earth—Moon
system. Perhaps the Moon was formed by at least a dozen projectiles
coming in from multiple angles and speeds to form moonlets that then merged.
North Korean Nukes
North Korea has successfully produced a
miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, says
a new analysis by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
North Korean military threat is advancing rapidly. US officials say
Pyongyang is outpacing expectations in its effort to build an ICBM
capable of striking cities on the US mainland.
Ministry of Defense also concludes there is evidence to suggest that
North Korea has achieved miniaturization.
Taking Down Kim
It would be easy for the United States to
take out the entire North Korean leadership with a special
operations unit. The intelligence capability and the special ops
capability we have today is incredible. Most people have no idea how
effective we are at conducting these missions.
and special ops community constantly rehearse scenarios — Delta
Night Stalker helicopters could do a high altitude, high opening
parachute op from across the border of South Korea, and then fly
under the canopy, undetected — all sorts of scenarios.
Tories Holding Out for a Hero
Ruth Davidson is a gay kick-boxer from a Scottish comprehensive
who once praised Attlee socialism and now leads the Conservative
party in Scotland. Jacob Rees-Mogg went to Eton and Oxford, got rich
in the City, and is now a backbench Conservative MP. She backed
Remain, he backed Leave.
Both have more popularity within the
party than its leadership. Davidson regularly tops a monthly league
ConservativeHome. Rees-Mogg says he will not stand, but he would
have come second this month if he had. Scores of party members wrote
in his name when they responded.
2017 August 8
To Be Or Not To Be
A cognitive bias hinders our moral
cognition. The phenomenal states of sentient beings on Earth are
much more frequently characterized by suffering and frustration than
these beings can see for themselves.
Analyzing the facts, an
ethical superintelligence concludes that it should minimize
consciously experienced frustration, pain, and suffering. It knows
that no entity can suffer from its own nonexistence and that
naturally evolved biological creatures are unable to realize this
fact because of their firmly anchored existence bias. It decides to
There are no moral facts. We have evolved
desires, subjective preferences, and we experience interests.
Evolution made us efficient, but the overall process is blind to our
own interests. We have deep seated moral intuitions, for example
that pleasure is good and pain is bad.
superintelligence respects these moral intuitions and tries to find
an optimal way of making them consistent. But this does not imply
direct access to a mysterious realm of higher moral truths. It just
means that the system, given all available data, tries to find out
what is in our own best interest.
Maybe meditation or future
neurotechnology could help us to make our lives worth living.
Conceivably, it could help us in giving our lives a positive overall
balance, or even liberate us from the burden of our biological past.
But even if all the billions of human beings on this planet were
turned into vegan Buddhas, the problem of wild animal suffering
A fully rational superintelligence would never
have a problem with ending its own existence. But most human beings
could never accept any such insight, no matter how good the
arguments of their artificial moral reasoner were. Homo sapiens
would declare war against a compassionate anti-natalist
Human life is one big uphill battle. Yet
we will do almost anything to prolong our own existence, even if it
violates rationality constraints. This is a biological imperative
that has been burned into our nervous systems over millennia — the
Buddha called it the craving for existence.
AR Thomas seemed cheerier than this at
Joe Polchinski won the 2017
Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for transformative
advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum
Polchinski, 63, has worked at the Kavli Institute
for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa
Barbara, for 25 years. He authored the seminal 1998 textbook
Polchinski: "The first thing to know is
that the two great theories of physics (quantum mechanics and
general relativity) work very well in most circumstances, but in
extremes like the beginning of the Big Bang we do not know how to
fit them together. Black holes are a great testing ground for this.
The firewall paradox seems to say that one of the two theories must
be modified, and that the result is that the black hole interior is
replaced by a wall of quantum bits."
If our Hubble bubble is bounded by a wall of qubits (recall
Maldacena, blog 2017-06-25) then it seems black holes must have
2017 August 7
The migrant crisis of the past few years has been a lesson in
the dangers of allowing heart to overrule head. From the German
welcome policy to the NGO boats searching the Mediterranean for
migrants to rescue, humanitarian compassion has escalated the
The line between refugees and economic migrants is
increasingly blurred. The top three home nations of those arriving
in Italy in the first quarter of this year were Nigeria, Bangladesh,
and Guinea. UN figures suggest that 7 in 10 who have come to Libya
are escaping poverty.
Most will sympathise with those who
yearn to escape poverty. But behind every one who makes it to Italy
are many more who are emboldened to set out on the same journey. The
most sensible strategy is to improve life in the poorest countries
and so weaken the desire to migrate.
Migrants know that once
rescued in the Mediterranean, passage to mainland Europe is assured.
The UN defines an asylum-seeker as anyone with a well-founded fear
of persecution in their own country. Smartphones let migrants learn
their rights under international law.
Development aid can be a good investment — better than buying
patrol warships that no sane government would allow to sink migrant
boats on sight.
2017 August 6
Machines of Loving Grace
Artificial intelligence and robotics research
is transforming our world. New machines will wipe out millions of
jobs. The Internet of Things is a whole new way for bad things to
AI systems have already infiltrated the military,
financial transactions, and the internet. We are now surrounded by
machines that in many ways are more competent than we are. A
high-end car runs with well over 100 million lines of computer code
— with more to come in self-driving cars.
Regardless of moral
and ethical concerns, Beijing proposes to lock everybody in China
into a social credit system by 2020. Algorithms will log and assess
all web user actions to calculate credit scores. Score high and
prosper, score low and despair.
Plans for robot nurses,
carers, and teachers often raise safety issues as acute as for cars.
Tell an AI carer always to do what is best for the patient and it
may well decide to kill them. Program them not to kill people and
they may simply decide we are wrong.
Silicon Valley believers
say we will engineer the Singularity. A super-intelligent machine
will make itself ever more intelligent and solve all our problems.
If we avoid catastrophe we can enter a kind of paradise watched over
machines of loving grace.
2017 August 5
Memo to Mike Pence
You occupy an unusual position in the
American constitution. You are the only member of the executive
branch whom Donald Trump cannot fire. You do not serve at the
pleasure of the president.
Start acting like a potential successor. It will let you emerge as a
leader not hopelessly tainted by your origin story. Put meaningful
distance between yourself and Trump. Act with the deliberation and
integrity and dignity of a president.
Do not allow an administration unrivaled in its mendacity to make a
liar out of you. Refuse to make any factual representations to the
American people that you have not independently verified and are not
prepared to stand behind.
Reaffirm, wherever possible, your commitment to and faith in all of
our three branches of government.
Study the example of Gerald Ford, who became president with the
resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974.
Memo to Theresa May
In October I will sit around the European Council table with 26
other prime ministers and we will decide together whether sufficient
progress has been made to allow the Brexit negotiations to proceed.
I do not underestimate the challenge.
If the United Kingdom does not want to stay in the customs union,
perhaps there can be an EU-UK customs union.
2 If the UK does not want to stay in the
single market perhaps it could enter into a deep free trade
agreement with the EU and rejoin EFTA, of which it was a member
prior to accession.
3 And if this
cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period
during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union
while these things are worked out.
These are the practical
solutions I am proposing.
The Next Big Thing
Apple augmented reality will launch next month
with the latest version of iOS for iPhones and iPads. ARKit
technology turns a combination of computer vision, tracking sensors,
and mapping software into something that can be incorporated into
Apple could become the first American business to be
valued above $1 trillion. But it is 10 years since the launch of the
first iPhone. The company faces speculation about where to go next.
Apple has begun to place bets on a wide range of markets. A
pair of AR glasses might move cameras, sensors, and screens from the
smartphone to the face. Apple is experimenting with prototypes.
Apple designers and engineers are content to wait for the right
moment to launch a new product. They can move quickly when the
moment arrives. App developers say AR could become the next big
computing platform after smartphones.
is next — see GOD
2017 August 4
Brexit Referendum 2
Britain is negotiating for a free trade
agreement in a hard Brexit. A trade agreement would probably have to
be ratified unanimously by the European Council, by a majority in
the European Parliament, and by 27 national and 11 regional
The June election result reopens the issue of
Europe for four reasons:
is probably no Commons majority for a hard Brexit. There is probably
a stronger representation of Remain MPs in parliament today than
before the election.
gains raise the question of whether the decision in the 2016
referendum is final. A study found the Labour soft Brexit policy lay
behind its big gain in votes. The election was the revenge of the
3 The election
intensifies internal divisions in both major parties. If the deal is
too hard, Conservative Remainers may join with their opposition
counterparts to defeat it, too soft and Tory hardliners could reject
it. There may be no majority for any form of Brexit on offer.
4 The House of Lords may reject hard
Brexit, saying a minority government has no mandate for it.
With a deadlocked parliament, the possibility of a bad deal, and
both parties deeply divided on Europe, the best way out may be a
second referendum. Brexit raises existential issues for the future
of the UK. The final deal needs the consent not only of parliament,
but of a sovereign people.
people wanted Brexit: You can't always get what you want — Mick
Theresa May set out the hard Brexit policy
of leaving the customs union and the single market in January.
Before then, the working Whitehall assumption had been the UK would
seek to stay in both, like Norway or Switzerland.
customs union and the single market requires the UK by March 2019 to
negotiate new trade treaties with the EU27 and with the 75
other nations with which the EU has trade
agreements. These 102 countries account for more than
60% of UK exports of goods and services.
British trade is
already global — helped, not hindered, by being part of the EU
customs union. There are a few large markets with which the EU does
not have trade agreements. The new Department for International
Trade (DIT) is building up its negotiating capacity from scratch.
AR No deals mean barriers at the
borders — FUK.
Yuval Noah Harari
Some time before the ninth century CE,
a script was invented to store and process mathematical data with
unprecedented efficiency. This partial script, composed of numerals
from 0 to 9, was invented by Hindus and promoted by Arabs. The basis
for modern mathematics came into being.
This system of
writing has become the world's dominant language. Almost all states,
companies, organizations, and institutions use mathematical script
to record and process data. A person who wishes to influence their
big decisions must learn to speak in numbers.
now given us a script consisting of only 0 and 1. Our computers have
trouble understanding our minds, so we are learning to talk, feel,
and dream in the language of computers. A new kind of intelligence
is emerging, based solely on bits.
When I find myself in times of trouble, mathematics comes to
2017 August 3
War Against North Korea
US Republican Lindsey Graham quoted Donald Trump as saying
"there will be a war with North Korea if they continue to try to hit
America" with an ICBM: "He has told me that. I believe him .. If
there's going to be a war .. it will be over there. If thousands
die, they're going to die over there."
Brexit Reveals UK Flaws
Brexit is being mismanaged. More than a year
after the referendum, the cabinet still cannot agree on what kind of
Brexit it wants, or when. HMS UK is steaming toward yet another
Brexit reveals three enduring flaws in UK
1 Running a country
on rhetoric. Brexit was made about 30 years ago at the Oxford Union
— Oxford university's version of a children's parliament, which
organises witty debates, and where future Brexiteers such as Boris
Johnson and Michael Gove were presidents. In Britain, humour is used
to cut off conversations before they can get emotional, boring, or
technical. Tasking Brexiteers with managing Brexit was like asking
the winners of a debating contest to engineer a spaceship.
2 Ruling class insularity. The present
cabinet of mostly former public schoolboys don't want Brussels
running Britain. That's their caste's prerogative. Because the
referendum skated over boring policy stuff, cabinet ministers are
discovering only now the UK will pay the EU a large divorce bill.
3 Delusions of grandeur. Britain
became a great power because it pioneered the fossil-fuel economy
and because being an island was excellent protection when states
still invaded each other. Neither advantage exists any more. Britain
today is like a cute little bonobo ape that thinks it's a gorilla.
The updated strategy is America First, Britain Second — praying that
Donald Trump will reward fealty with a sweetheart trade deal.
Britain ignores its genuine strengths. Almost all its clever
people are mere spectators at the Brexit slapstick. Westminster
insularity had previously enabled the financial crisis. The ruling
rhetoricians treated the City as a magic money tree, until in 2007
the tree fell down and hit the country.
AR Some nice rhetoric there.
Mit Abgas in den Abgrund
Autohersteller sind angeschlagen, ihre Diesel-Verkäufe sinken
dramatisch. Mit dem Gipfel sollte hektisch Vertrauen zurückgewonnen
werden, doch das Gegenteil ist der Fall. So ist die Branche dem
AR Uups — ich
fahre ein BMW Diesel-Auto.
2017 August 2
The New York Times
The Trump administration's approach to the North Korean nuclear threat is
failing. It was all about putting the responsibility on China to
force the North to abandon its program.
China has held back. The Chinese fear
the NK regime could
collapse, sending millions of refugees fleeing across the border and
effectively handing power over the peninsula to US ally South Korea.
The Trump administration has not given up on China. But
sanctions alone are not the answer. Some experts suggest an NK nuclear and missile
freeze in return for limits on
US-SK military exercises.
The administration awaits a "tangible signal" that
NK will abandon its nuclear
program before talks begin. This is not realistic. Talks should
begin without preconditions.
It could be worth a trillion dollars to resolve this peacefully.
Terrorism is seen for the first time
as the most important issue facing the EU.
Trust in the EU and in national parliaments and
governments has increased.
Europeans trust the EU more than
national parliaments and governments.
● 4 in 10 Europeans have a
positive image of the EU
● 2 in 10 have a negative
image of the EU.
● More than 4 in 10 Europeans
consider that their voice counts in the EU.
● More than half of Europeans
disagree that their voice counts in the EU.
● Well over half of Europeans
are optimistic about the future of the EU.
● Absolute majorities of
Europeans support EU priorities and common policies.
● More than 8 in 10
respondents are in favor of free movement of EU citizens.
● More than two-thirds support
a common European policy on migration.
● 6 in 10 are for European
economic and monetary union and a single currency.
● In the EZ nearly
support the euro.
Absolute majorities of Europeans feel
attached to the EU and to Europe.
More than two-thirds of
Europeans feel they are citizens of the EU.
AR The UK is down with Greece and
Hungary in the national breakdowns.
A UK collaboration has built a quantum
gravimeter that uses cold atoms to make precise measurements of
gravitational field strength. It could be used to survey for oil or
minerals, and it may be the start of a new market for quantum
The gravimeter senses subtle changes in the strength
of ambient gravitational fields. It holds clouds of rubidium atoms
in superposition in a vacuum chamber cooled to 80 microkelvin. To
make a measurement, it drops them and zaps them in free fall with
three laser pulses. These produce an interference pattern encoding
the position and paths of the clouds.
Two atom clouds falling
at different speeds would indicate a change in the density of the
ground below, for example due to the presence of oil or minerals.
Quantum effects are sensitive, so the device must be carefully
shielded and cooled.
Glasgow photonics company M Squared
founder and CEO Graeme Malcolm: "I think we're just at the early
stage of commercial adoption of quantum technologies."
AR My essay on quantum theory is on hold
as I study QFT.
2017 August 1
Eurasia This Century
Republic of China and the European Union are the leading political
agents on Earth for global organization. China's road and belt
strategy and the EU vision of a federalized Europe centered on
Germany are the most promising steps in the direction of developing
an integrated social and business model across the supercontinent,
from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.
America can be part
of this vision only after the US experiment with populist democracy
has run its course and the US global hegemony has been replaced by a
more globalist strategic order. A joint push from China and Europe
can nudge Russia into reforms that help it support wider order. A
Eurasian order can subsume Islam and other traditions in a social
Science is the enabler for the new vision.
A scientific view of the universe and the emergence of life is a
backdrop to a view of human duty as to ensure that the human
footprint on Earth properly reflects the glory we wish to associate
with our memory as deep time swallows up the human legacy. Due
respect for science and measured cultivation of technology express
The globalist vision will center on planetary
management for human flourishing in a sustainable environment. Big
business corporations will share the vision as a precondition for
long term success as providers of specialist services on a global
scale. The legal and regulatory environment will claim global scope
and seek to integrate outlier regimes as harmoniously as possible.
Globorg Is Great!
Borders of Infinity
Keita Yokoyama and Ludovic Patey have proved a
major statement about the finite-infinite divide. The boundary separates two
kinds of mathematical statements: finitistic ones, which can be
proved without invoking infinity, and infinitistic ones, which
presume that infinite objects exist.
understanding this division is at the heart of mathematical logic.
It leads directly to questions of mathematical objectivity, the
meaning of infinity, and the relationship between mathematics and
The new proof settles a question about Ramsey's Theorem for pairs —
RT22 is finitistically reducible. The argument in RT22 can be
used to prove new facts in finitistic mathematics.
Imagine an infinite set of objects, such as the set of all natural
numbers. Now pair each object in the set one by one with all other
objects. Color each pair of objects either red or blue according to
some rule. When you are done, RT22 states that at least one of the
(all red or all blue) subsets will be infinite (color can be any
We are now free to use this result to prove
statements in finitistic mathematics. All the finitistic
consequences of RT22 are guaranteed to be provable in a finitistic
Frank Ramsey used infinitistic methods to
partition infinite sets at will. David Hilbert challenged us to prove that set theory and all of infinitistic mathematics is
finitistically reducible, and therefore trustworthy. Then Kurt Gödel
proved that no system of logical axioms powerful enough to include
elementary arithmetic can ever prove its own consistency, so to
prove that a system of logic is consistent, you need another axiom
from outside the system — end of Hilbert's program.
and Yokoyama showed that RT22 is equal in logical strength to
primitive recursive arithmetic, and therefore finitistically
reducible. They modeled the infinite (red or blue) set of pairs in
RT22 using a finite set whose elements are nonstandard models of the
natural numbers. They then translated the question of the strength
of RT22 into the size of the finite set in their model.
Numerous finitistic statements about natural numbers are now known
to be expressible in primitive recursive arithmetic. They are thus
certain to be logically consistent.
for talk is over"
US ambassador to the UN
"must decide if it is finally
willing to take this
of challenging Pyongyang.
More than half the parts in an
average car built
in the UK last
year were imported. A triumph
of modern supply
will be a liability after Brexit.
would cut British
exports and raise the cost
of cars in the
Classic Rock Review
— Beatles sang
"All you need is love"
Khan We Do It?
London mayor Sadiq Khan
wants the UK to stay
in the EU
and proposes a pledge:
"For it to have credibility
with the British public, there
would have to be a Labour
have to spell out in
black and white what we'd
do if we won the
election. What could trump
the referendum result is us
having a manifesto offer
saying we would not leave
the EU or we
a second referendum."
Modern Neuroscience in Action
Natural History Museum, Oxford
2017-03-10 — 2018-01-01
Me in 2008
Top — Not!
was the richest man
in the world for a few hours.
He was worth about $90
billion thanks to a rise in the valuation
of the Amazon group to
$500 billion. Then came news
of a drop in Q2 profits.
Matilda II tank
it's the USA here ..
understand that you chose
to split up with the EU ..
To be honest, some think
pandering to a part
of you that blames anybody
things go wrong.
So, I am asking you to do
rethink this whole thing.
Just to be clear, we'll
still be friends ..
But if you leave for the
reasons you have stated,
you will not be respected
for many years
Royal Navy, 1940
1939: RN had
80 cruisers, ..
1945: RN had 16 battleships,
52 carriers, 62 cruisers,
257 destroyers, ..
Protesters in Lodz on Sunday
North Sea Empire
Scandinavian invaders first
England in 981 CE. In
1009 an army took Canterbury
pillaged the south coast.
In 1010 it laid waste to
Swen Forkbeard landed in 1013
His son Cnut the Great ruled
from 1013 to
1035 as king of
Denmark, England and Norway
— the North
The Third Reich staged
as the ultimate work of art
Christopher Nolan in
Dunkirk last Sunday
A Celebration of
Science and Reason
New York City
My First Six Months
An Inconvenient Sequel:
Truth to Power
AL GORE 2020
William und Kate
Am zweiten Tag ihrer
Prinz William und seine Frau
Kate in Heidelberg.
Sie besuchten das Deutsche
Gegen Abend ging sie
zurück nach Berlin.
AR Es war schön,
2017 July 31
China's Centenary Goals
Speaking at a reception to mark the 90th
anniversary of People's Liberation Army in London, Chinese
ambassador Liu Xiaoming said China aims to build its armed forces to
provide a strong safeguard as it strives to realize the dream of
The Chinese Communist Party was founded in
2021 and the People's Republic of China established in 2049. The
centenary goals are that by 2021, China will be economically secure
and by 2049, it will be a strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious,
and modern socialist country.
China aims to ensure its
defense force meets the need of protecting its security and
development interests. In recent decades, China's military
expenditure accounted for 1.32% of GDP.
China pursues a
concept focused on common, comprehensive, cooperative, and
sustainable security. China will make great efforts to advance
international cooperation on military and security, and will play an
active and leading role in international peacekeeping and
China is the largest contributor of
peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN Security
Council. China is also the second largest contributor to the UN
FUK No Tax Haven — Hammond
Le Monde, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said: "I
often hear it said that the UK is considering participating in
unfair competition in regulation and tax. That is neither our plan
nor our vision for the future. The amount of tax we raise as a
percentage of our GDP puts us right in the middle of the pack. We
don't want that to change, even after we've left the EU. I would
expect us to remain a country with a social, economic and cultural
model that is recognisably European."
not have parliamentary support for changing the British economic
model by slashing taxes and regulation.
The Brexit narrative uses memories of
WW2 movies in which plucky Brits won the day and sundry foreigners
were put in their place.
does not identify a human enemy. The soldiers show a range of human
qualities, bravery and cowardice, strength and weakness, uncertainty
and confidence, pluck and despair — no innate British superiority,
just a lot of human beings scrambling their way through visceral
The moving spirit of the event depicted has nothing
to do with battle and everything to do with generosity, with unarmed
sailors saving strangers who needed to be saved. All you can see in
hundreds of small boats is humility, gentleness, and sympathy. There
can be no fit memorial to those who gave their lives but near
infinite generosity between those who survived.
refugees, in the evacuation of the French from the beaches, Brits
had no thought of breaching a yearly migration target. A moviegoer
may consider the horrors that would otherwise have ensued and
conclude that maybe offering sanctuary in the service of humanity is
a good thing.
Thanks to the EU, Europeans have been at peace
with each other for 70 years. The right response to Brexit
bellicosity is Dunkirk spirit.
2017 July 30
US Department of State
The United States strongly
condemns North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic
As the principal economic enablers of North Korea's
nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and
Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing
threat to regional and global stability.
The United States
will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.
12.29—12.35 am, July 30
I am very disappointed
in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make
hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet .. they do
NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow
this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!
"You have a White House in meltdown because
the president is a pyromaniac .. in a
rational world, Donald Trump would not be the president of the
United States. We're well past the rational world."
Two WW2 acronyms: snafu (situation normal,
all fucked up) and fubar (fucked up beyond all recognition).
Last November, American voters faced a choice between a candidate
who personified the political status quo under an arrogant and
detached liberal elite and a candidate who promised the disruption
of that status quo — snafu or fubar.
The time has arrived to
break the bad news to those who voted for Trump. You wanted change.
You got it. But the result is a political system that I can certify
as fucked up beyond all recognition. This is not politics — this is
AR Peaceniks of the world beware.
Brexit — Single Market Wins
Two of Germany's biggest industry groups say
their main concern during the Brexit process is protecting the
single market for the EU27, even if this harms UK trade.
Dieter Kempf: "Defending the single market, a key European project,
must be the priority for the European Union. Europe must maintain
the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms: goods,
capital, services, and labour. It is the responsibility of the
British government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel.
Over the coming months, it will be extraordinarily difficult to
avert negative effects on British businesses in particular."
BDA president Ingo Kramer: "The single market is one of the
major assets of the EU. Access to the single market requires the
acceptance of all four single market freedoms. The UK will remain a
very important partner for us, but we need a fair deal for both
sides respecting this principle. The cohesion of the remaining 27 EU
member states has highest priority."
AR A clear and correct decision
2017 July 29
In the beginning, quantum
electrodynamics involved hard calculations. Richard Feynman found an
easier way to do them. But quantum chromodynamics involved so many
of them that even Feynman diagrams got too much.
Freddy Cachazo, Bo Feng, and Edward Witten (BCFW) calculated some
difficult scattering amplitudes and derived a simple equation to do
the same thing.
Their method was inspired by twistor theory,
developed by Roger Penrose (blog 2017-02-14). Twistors are light
rays (null geodesics in relativistic spacetime). The terms used in
the BCFW method map to tetrahedral volumes in twistor space, which
sum up to the volume of a polyhedron.
Nima Arkani-Hamed and
his team say BCFW results correspond to the volume of an
like a multidimensional polyhedron). An amplituhedron encodes
scattering amplitude calculations, and its dimensions and facets
encode the details of the interaction.
The amplituhedron does
not embody unitarity and locality, which are core principles for
Feynman diagrams. But amplituhedra give scattering amplitudes that
obey locality and unitarity, so locality becomes an emergent feature
of spacetime. Quantum mechanics says the energy fluctuations in tiny
intervals of time get ever bigger, big enough to warp spacetime and
form black holes, so we might lose locality in quantum gravity.
Arkani-Hamed: "If we are going
to lose something as dramatic as the idea of spacetime, it's very
unlikely that it leaves any of physics unaffected. It must show up
everywhere. It must show up even in situations where we think we
understand things perfectly well."
The amplituhedron works
for a toy model with supersymmetry. The standard model is not
supersymmetric, but for simple particle interactions the
amplituhedron results agree with standard ones. The new method holds
for the class of theories the standard model arose from.
Arkani-Hamed: "There is no way in this geometry to decouple the
piece which is spacetime from the piece which is quantum mechanics.
It's all one and the same aspect of the underlying positive
Oxford neuroscientist John
Jefferys studies consciousness. He says this is a large question to
do with what makes humans distinctive. He believes consciousness
depends on the brain.
Consciousness has different levels. In
some phases of sleep your brain behaves as if it is awake. When
awake we experience different levels of wakefulness. Other animals
are conscious, but humans are unique in storing and building on the
knowledge of previous generations.
Jefferys studies neural
correlates of consciousness. There are about 86 billion neurons in
the human cerebral cortex. Trillions of axons connect them at
synapses. Patterns of connections are as important as the numbers.
Jeremy England sees life as the outcome
of thermodynamics. He says groups of atoms will naturally
restructure themselves so as to burn more energy, dissipating it and
raising entropy. He says this adaptation fosters the growth of
England has tested his idea
in computer simulations. A simulated soup of chemicals evolves from
random initial settings toward a structured steady state. For some
settings, the reaction network evolves to fixed points far from
equilibrium, where it cycles vigorously through reactions to harvest
as much energy possible from the environment.
show this behavior can arise quite quickly. Groups of atoms that
unlock and burn chemical energy must be arranged in unusual forms.
When driven by external energy sources, they tend to tap into the
energy sources by rearranging so as to better absorb and dissipate
England sees the confluence of form and function
in life as the ultimate outcome of dissipation-driven adaptation and
self-replication. In his simulations, external energy sources forced
certain chemical reactions in the reaction network. As the reactions
progressed and the concentrations evolved, the amount of forcing
would change abruptly.
In such an
environment, the networks became tuned to the landscape. In
randomized runs, rare states of vigorous chemical activity and
extreme forcing occurred four times more often than expected. These
systems showed the functional form of life.
2017 July 28
Trump — Unfit!
President Trump is using the military as a
pawn in a political stunt. Right-wingers threatened to block funding
for his useless wall unless he eliminated funding for gender
reassignment surgery from the defense budget. Trump responded with a
ban on transgender people in the military.
Trump may have
been taken by surprise when conservative Republicans condemned the
move. His selfish motivation was obvious. In hot water with the
right wing and seeing the special prosecutor hot on his trail, he
decided to appeal to the worst instincts and prejudices of his base.
Trump is incapable of thinking beyond his self-interest. He
would disrupt our military, create havoc among active service
personnel and their families, and lie about it all just to distract
from his political woes. Trump has no clue as to the awesome
responsibilities of the presidency.
Mooch — Fire!
Trump's new White House communications
director Anthony Scaramucci: "They're trying to resist me, but it's
not going to work. I've done nothing wrong on my financial
disclosures, so they're going to have to go fuck themselves .. I'm
not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock. I'm not trying
to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I'm
here to serve the country. .. OK, the Mooch showed up a week ago.
This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, OK? Because I nailed
these guys. I've got digital fingerprints on everything they've done
through the FBI and the fucking Department of Justice."
Brexit — Whoops!
Brexit may break the Conservatives. The
clock is ticking. Falling off a cliff in March 2019 is not a
sensible strategy for the UK or its government.
a transition would be difficult. Britain would be obliged to
continue to observe all the rules of the single market and customs
union, including free movement of workers and the jurisdiction of
the ECJ, and pay all its financial dues, while giving up its seat at
the Brussels table. Bespoke arrangements are impractical within the
Article 50 timescale.
No one is offering something for
nothing. The big trade deal promised by Donald Trump would see
British farmers put out of business by cheap imports and the NHS
opened up to US business. The Indians and Australians want more
The Treasury says we need EU access until
deals elsewhere are done. A limbo between the EU and Brexit
would be dire. Britain would be much better off as an EU member.
Blitzsieg — Nicht!
In Mai 1940 brach die deutsche Wehrmacht durch
zu Calais. Am 22. Mai 1940 steckte gut die Hälfte von mehr als eine
Million französische, britische und belgische Soldaten in einem
Aus London kam die Weisung, die Wehrmacht mit
voller Kraft anzugreifen. BEF-Kommandeur Lord Gort traf eine andere
Entscheidung: Er würde sofort und mit aller Kraft die Evakuierung
betreiben. Rund 400.000 Mann mussten in die unmittelbare Umgebung
der Hafenstadt Dünkirchen gelangen.
Die vordersten deutschen
Panzer waren nur noch 19 Kilometer vor Dünkirchen. Doch zwei Tage
lang zögerte Hitler, seinen Truppen den Angriff auf den Kessel
freizugeben. Am 24. Mai erließ er einen ausdrücklichen Haltebefehl.
Seit damals rätseln alle warum.
Der Führer könnte um seine Panzer gefürchtet haben. Denn am 21. Mai
hatten britische schwere Panzer vom Typ Matilda II den meist
leichten Kampfwagen der Wehrmacht zum ersten Mal eine Schlappe
2 Der Haltebefehl
wäre ein Angebot an die Regierung in London: Nach einem Sieg über
Frankreich wäre er zum Friedensschluss bereit.
Gröfaz wollte seiner höchsten
Generalität klar machen, auf wen es letztlich ankam.
Stunden wurde der Haltebefehl wieder aufgehoben, aber diese Zeit
hatten die Briten genutzt, um eine Evakuierung zu organisieren.
Operation Dynamo begann am 26. Mai 1940.
Bis 3. Juni 1940
transportierten britische Schiffe aus dem Hafen von Dünkirchen
239.446 Mann ab. Kleinere Boote bargen weitere 98.780 Soldaten von
2017 July 27
Brexit — Done Deal
For many French businesses and people, Brexit is
both desirable and unstoppable. Time for the EU to move on. Such
impatience with the UK is not limited to France.
Brits listen to the views of those across the Channel who know
European politics and how the EU works. Nothing about Brexit can be
settled except in agreement with the EU27 national governments and
the European Parliament. Brits harbor illusions and make
Theresa May and her cabinet ministers
want a phased exit from the EU to avoid a cliff-edge departure that
might damage business. But temporary UK acceptance of EU rules on
free movement will not be enough to strike a transition deal. EU
negotiators will ask the UK to continue to make budget payments,
remain in the EU judicial system, and accept its present membership
obligations, yet have no vote on anything.
UK home secretary Amber Rudd will commission a
detailed analysis of the economic and social contributions and costs
of EU citizens in Britain, to report back in September 2018.
Labour MP Heidi Alexander: "It beggars belief that the government
have taken a year to get round to asking for expert evidence on the
role played by EU nationals in our country .. The timing of this
announcement shows the total lack of preparation and understanding
that has typified this government's attitude to Brexit so far."
AR Heidi hat
Tech leaders aim to break through limits
and do things that were impossible before. But a pause can be wise.
Some advances raise deep ethical questions.
expectations for a new technology is important. When huge advances
are daily occurrences, it is all too easy to think there are no
limits to what we can do. People will accept almost any predictions
about the future of new technologies. This is the fake news of tech.
Unbounded dreams for a tech-driven nirvana can clash with the
realities of the modern world, particularly in regard to timeframes.
Some say technologies like AI or autonomous driving are going to
solve enormous societal issues in a matter of a few years. Others
see the tech industry as stagnating in search of the next big thing.
Both camps are wrong.
Autonomous driving can benefit some
people in some environments, but it will not be a great fit for
everyone, everywhere. We are still a long way from having a
physical, legal, economic, and political environment for autonomous
cars to have a big impact on the transportation needs of most
consumers. But the technologies can have a dramatic impact on public
transportation systems or shipping fleets over the next few years.
Google Glass is no longer trying to be the next generation
computing device and industry disruptor but will focus on work-based
applications. It will do what it is best designed to do. Accepting
that a technology cannot do some things creates a more realistic
scenario for it to succeed.
Thinking a new technology concept
can be extended without limits will lead to disappointment. A
limited scope is not a bug but a feature.
Globorg on hold, ditto the
2017 July 26
Clean Up Our Air!
The UK government will ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars
and vans from 2040. Hybrid cars will also be banned. At present
under 1% of new cars sold in Britain run solely on electric power.
The ban is part of a government plan to improve air quality. A
£3 billion program includes £255 million to help local authorities
to deal with toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from diesel vehicles.
Environment secretary Michael Gove will require dozens of councils
with roads breaching legal limits for NO2 to publish plans to cut
emissions by the end of 2018.
Poor air quality is the biggest
environmental risk to public health in the UK. Air pollution cost an
estimated £2.7 billion in lost productivity in 2012 and 40,000
premature deaths every year.
Clean Air Zones
The UK ban on the sale of all petrol and
diesel cars from 2040 is partly driven by EU rules.
European Commission in February threatened the UK with penalties for
failing to take action on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. UK
environment secretary Michael Gove will asks local authorities to
improve air quality in areas where emissions have breached EU
thresholds by retrofitting buses and taking steps to improve traffic
The strategy calls for setting up 27 clean air zones
(CAZs) that polluting vehicles, especially diesels, would be charged
to enter. Greenpeace says proper clean air zones are vital. The
London mayor may be asked to fund a scheme to scrap diesels, the
worst emitters of poisonous NOx.
French president Emmanuel
Macron has already made the same 2040 pledge.
AR This is ambitious. A lot of extra
electricity generating capacity will be needed to recharge millions
of electric cars.
Humiliation corrodes the soul of nations.
Dunkirk was a disorderly retreat following a defeat. Yet Dunkirk
spirit became an emblem of national character, a metaphor for plucky
survival against insuperable odds.
Victory over fascism,
after a period of solitary defiance on an island fortress, has
infused British identity with vast reserves of moral authority. As
the rest of the world has moved on, Brits still congratulate
Britain joined the EEC in 1973. All the tribes of
Europe narrate the past in the majestic plural, yet none can match
British shame at loss of identity through EU membership. Brexit is
self-harm, born of an urge to expiate the sin of having joined the
enterprise in the first place.
Brexit will complete the
national devaluation prefigured in the post-referendum slide of
sterling. Britain will cut a smaller figure on the world stage.
Backing out now will require a plea for mercy that looks like a
Dunkirk was a preamble to hard times followed by
magnificent redemption. It shows retreat can be the best option.
When a plan goes wrong and disaster is in sight, it is time to
swallow pride and turn around.
Brains in Vats
A brain is governed by the laws of physics.
Those laws can be simulated on a computer. According to the
transhumanists, we will soon be able to live on inside computer
hardware. The brain in a vat becomes the brain on a chip.
Such heady visions ignore the fact that the brain is an organ of the
body. Experts say embodiment is central to experience and brain
function. At the immediate physiological level, the brain engages in
discourse with its sensory experience via hormones in the
How do you know you're not just a brain in a vat
being presented with a simulated world? How, then, can you know that
all your beliefs about the world are not false?
argued in 1981 that the notion is contradictory. Words and concepts
used by a brain in a vat cannot be meaningfully applied to real
objects outside of its experience, because the ability to interact
causally with the things that words name is how such words acquire
Anthony Brueckner: "If I am a Brain in a Vat, then I
am not a Brain in a Vat."
world is my vat.
2017 July 25
Brexit Is Our Dunkirk
Dunkirk is an enduring British myth. The
extraordinary evacuation of the stranded, defeated British army in
May and June 1940 staved off what would otherwise have been an
inevitably successful German invasion, runs the myth. Defeat became
the platform for eventual victory.
The Dunkirk spirit is
emblematic of British bulldog virtues. Brexiteers appeal to it
today. Any disaster, even one as epic as Brexit, can be turned
around if we all pull together. Dunkirk may have been a disaster,
but it was also a stunning achievement.
In 1940, British
naval and air strength was formidable. The British Empire
manufactured more planes and ships than Germany throughout the war.
Britain also boasted great scientific and technological strength.
Today, the UK current account deficit exceeds 5% of GDP, real wages
and productivity are stagnant, and hope is hard to find.
Brexit is a new Dunkirk. But no flotilla of small boats and no
underlying economic strength will come to the rescue. It's just
Prospects for deepening EZ monetary union remain
poor. EZ periphery states need to grow fast to reduce debt but
growth must stay weak if competitiveness is to rise via internal
devaluation. Until EZ surplus states deliver more domestic demand,
this contradiction will persist.
EZ periphery vulnerability
stems from several adverse dynamics:
Given high debt levels, euro fungibility across borders is still
prone to breakdown. During periods of weak growth, sovereign debt
sustainability is questioned. Periphery states have little recourse
to countercyclical fiscal stimulus.
EZ periphery states have to undergo painful internal devaluations to
regain competitiveness due to the fixed ERM. With average EZ
inflation very low, internal devaluation is politically and
potential growth rates and negligible inflation prevent debt levels
from falling much during cyclical upswings. Debt sustainability
Political will is lacking. The ECB program
to buy sovereign debt requires states in need of financing to cede
sovereignty to Brussels in return for funding. The high bar for
political intervention leaves the EZ unsafe.
Richard David Precht is a rock star of
German philosophy. He has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide
of his most popular book —
Who Am I? And If So, How Many? — in 32 languages. His TV show,
Precht, boasts a viewership of nearly 1 million.
German philosophy is flourishing.
takes its questions to the marketplace, letting the public help feel
them out, and now has a circulation of 100,000. German philosophers
have made the Faustian pact of exchanging profundity for popularity.
The grand German tradition of philosophers such as Kant, Hegel,
Nietzsche, and Heidegger
has been a source of national pride. German philosophy and German
national identity have been yoked together ever since Hegel. No
other philosophers have burdened their homelands with such a
Theodor Adorno said the German language had a
particular affinity for philosophy. If you wanted to do philosophy
properly, you had to do it in German. Though Adorno spent years at
Oxford and more than a decade in the United States, he treated
Anglo-American philosophy with contempt.
Jürgen Habermas read
Anglo-American philosophers. His 1981
The Theory of Communicative Action envisioned an unlimited
communication community linked through discourse and argument. His
work bridged Adorno's pessimistic, elitist style of philosophy and
the new revival of the discipline.
From 2002 to 2012,
Peter Sloterdijk was
Das Philosophische Quartett, a talk show on the German TV channel
ZDF. He and
Rüdiger Safranski would debate issues of the day with two
invited guests. But after a decade, ZDF replaced the hosts with
Richard David Precht and changed its name from Das Philosophische
Quartett to Precht.
Markus Gabriel, whose 2015 book
Why the World
Does Not Exist became an international bestseller, confirms that
modern German philosophy can be both profound and successful.
Philosophers like Precht and Gabriel seems to have an export market.
Philosophers, take heed.
2017 July 24
UK — Take Control
Brexit will tear the UK government apart. I
believe it faces an election in about two years.
To win that
election the government must refocus the agenda and govern:
● Reform schooling and end the
postcode lottery scandal. Let employers teach skills in local
enterprise partnerships. Devolve unemployment programs to employers.
● Convert two-tier counties to
unitary ones. The redundancies will allow council tax reductions.
Let new mayoral authorities become showpieces of conservatism in
● We have a housing crisis.
Appoint a supremo with the power to drive every aspect and empower
local authorities to build social housing.
● Each new electoral register
could be worth about a thousand votes against Brexit in every seat.
The European issue is about immigration. Climate change will
increase the flow.
● Let our aid programs create
brighter futures in immigrant homelands. Half of UK net immigration
has nothing to do with Europe. Make new arrangements for seasonal
● Turn back boats leaving
African shores. Our southern border is the Mediterranean. We should
accept the principle of free movement but negotiate the details.
Act now. It will be too late for the government when the vote of
confidence is called.
Poland — Protest
Polish president Andrzej Duda says he
will veto two bills that would give politicians wide powers over
the the judiciary in Poland.
The ruling Law and Justice party
says the changes are needed to overhaul an inefficient system. But
they have drawn fierce criticism from the EU and sparked protests
One of the bills would force all members of
the supreme court to step down, except for those kept on by the
president. The second would give parliament control over the council
that appoints judges.
Thousands of Poles took to the streets
around the country to protest the changes.
Brexit — Exit Options
1 Revocation of Brexit requires
the explicit consent of the European Council before March 29, 2019.
The EU27 leaders would have to agree. Some may ask for a few
— Revoke the UK budget rebate
negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984.
— Agree on the next EU
budget for when the current budget ends in 2020.
— Cooperate on
EZ reform to establish a financial center within the EZ.
on immigration and other areas where the UK opted out.
2 Article 49 of the Lisbon treaty lets the UK reapply for EU
membership after March 29, 2019. This procedure removes UK rebates
and opt-outs and requires the UK to join the euro.
The UK seeks an association agreement with the EU that goes beyond a
trade deal and can serve as a blueprint for relations between the EZ
and other peripheral EU countries.
Looks like Fortress UK — the end is nigh.
2017 July 23
Philosophical prolegomenon to a viewing of
The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche (1872, 1993
translation by Shaun Whiteside)
From the preface to Richard Wagner: "I imagine the moment when you, my
honoured friend, will receive this essay .. I am convinced that art
is the supreme task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life
in the sense of that man, my noble champion on that path, to whom I
dedicate this book."
derives its continuous development from the duality of the Apolline
and Dionysiac .. These two very different tendencies walk side by
side, usually in violent opposition to one another, inciting one
another to ever more powerful births, perpetuating the struggle of
the opposition .. until at last they seem to beget .. tragedy.
Apollo, the deity of all plastic forces, is also the soothsaying
god. Etymologically the shining one, the deity of light, he also
holds sway over the beautiful illusion of the inner fantasy world.
Schopenhauer has described the tremendous dread that grips man
when he suddenly loses his way amidst the cognitive forms of
appearance .. If we add to this dread the blissful ecstasy which ..
rises up .. from nature, we are vouchsafed a glimpse into the nature
of the Dionysiac .. the artistic power .. reveals itself .. amidst
the paroxysms of intoxication.
4 Apollo .. demands
moderation from his followers and .. self-knowledge .. The Apolline
Greeks .. were forced to feel .. their entire existence .. was based
on a veiled substratum of suffering and knowledge, revealed .. by
8 Enchantment is the precondition of all
dramatic art .. In the light of this insight, we must see Greek
tragedy as the Dionysiac chorus, continuously discharging itself in
an Apolline world of images.
16 According to Schopenhauer
.. we must see music as the immediate language of the will .. we can
conclude that music can give birth to the myth .. and the tragic
myth above all: the myth that speaks symbolically of the Dionysiac
25 Music and tragic myth are to an equal extent
expressions of the Dionysiac capacity of a people, and they are
Hans Zimmer scored a triumph of the will in
Christopher Nolan eschewed war porn for a
powerful and superbly crafted disaster movie.
Dunkirk brings together his finest qualities in a study of survival. The action
unspools in three interlaced strands that bend our perception of
Nolan had turned the Batman franchise into the
Dark Knight trilogy, which grossed $2.5 billion worldwide.
Alongside that trio, his 2010 movie
Inception took place in a mind-bending dreamworld and Interstellar (2014) in the warped time of a black hole.
Nolan was born in 1970 in London. His father was British, his mother
American. He studied English literature at University College
London, where he met his future wife and producer, Emma Thomas. They
have been married for 17 years and have four children.
AR I absorbed the
drama of Dunkirk in iSense at the Bournemouth Odeon. Dionysiac
Germans hammered Apolline Brits and deafening bombs and bullets
shook my body. My own bit part in the night scene in a train station
is invisible in the final cut.
2017 July 22
EU West End — UK
Brextremists rarely ask whether others want
any part of Empire 2.0. Donald Trump may or may not give Brits a
great deal full of goodies. Canada sees the US and the EU as much
more important trading partners than the UK. India has made new
agreements with London, but only 1.7% of UK exports go to India,
only 9% to all Commonwealth countries. The EU has free trade
agreements with 32 Commonwealth countries.
The EU has the
best cards in the Brexit poker. It is well prepared and is holding
together. The UK government still has no clear strategy on key
issues. Insiders see the chance of an agreement by the end of 2018
for an orderly Brexit as near zero. A transition period will be
needed to prevent a chaotic relapse to WTO rules.
hopes will be dashed. It will be hard to avoid that
humiliating end of empire feeling.
EU East End — Poland
Poland was long seen as the paragon among East
End member states. But Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his ruling Law and
Justice (PiS) party have turned Poland into a problem for the EU.
Kaczynski thinks in nationalist terms and sees the EU as a source of
cash rather than a community of solidarity. His party is dismantling
the constitutional separation of powers, despite protests from
Brussels, Berlin, and Polish activists.
Kaczynski envisions a
generous state with a nationalist and Catholic identity. He presents
himself as the defender of the common people against the
consequences of economic liberalism. He sees the Poles as a heroic
people forever victimized by Russia and Germany, and calls the EU an
instrument of German power.
A large majority of Poles support EU membership. Diplomats fear Poles could stumble to an
2017 July 21
Philosophy today is a
backwater, but 70 years ago things were different. Marxism was
winning converts worldwide. A new philosophy was needed that
provided an uncompromising vindication of free markets and contested
Rational choice theory holds that people make (or
should make) choices rationally by ranking the alternatives
presented to them with regard to transitivity and completeness. They
then choose the alternative that maximizes their utility, advancing
their relevant goals at minimal cost. The theory takes a strongly
individualist view of human life.
Rational choice theory was
elevated from an empirical theory covering certain empirical
contexts into a normative theory of the proper operation of the
human mind. Scientific method was already installed as coextensive
with reason itself. Scientists choose from an array of alternative
theories, under a preference for highest probability, in a series of
Cold War philosophy continues to structure
US society at large. It proclaims ethical neutrality. However
laudable or nefarious my goals might be, I will be better able to
achieve them if I have wealth and power. We therefore derive an
ethical imperative to increase wealth and power.
promulgating free markets and contested elections gave the
philosophy homes in departments of economics and political science,
where it thrives today. The philosophy is individualist and neutral
in regard to ends. Its ethic is no ethic at all — greed is good.
Another problem: Whatever I choose has at least one alternative,
or there would be no choice. But if I identify myself at the outset
with any of my plurality of alternatives, I cannot choose any
alternative to it. Any alternative I consider in the course of
making a rational decision is something I can walk away from and
still be me. My fundamental identity is as a rational chooser who
opts for the highest utility.
To act freely is to act from
your entire moral being. Hegel: freedom is the apprehension of
necessity — to understand what you have to do to be you. Freedom of
choice is valuable only when situated within wider horizons of
Sam Harris should
What can years and years of nuclear terror
teach us about how the existential fear of mass death and societal
collapse might affect our ability to respond to climate change?
Stories related to climate change have failed to tap into
deep-seated pre-existing terrors. Nuclear fear draws on a number of
extremely potent tropes. During the Cold War, people living in fear
of nuclear apocalypse often reported feeling like they were being
carried away by something ancient and inexorable.
climate change lacks a visceral image of the worst-case scenario.
Nuclear fear also benefits from our bias toward individual stories.
Because climate change is about social fate, not individual agency,
it is much less dramatic to witness, much more difficult to
villainize, and much easier to ignore.
The current US
president seems entirely unbothered by climate change, It is
tempting to think that ringing alarm bells could force citizens to
insist on positive action.
AR I fear Earth could become
another hell-hole like Venus.
UK environment secretary Michael Gove
"deeply regrets" the Trump administration's approach to the Paris
agreement on climate change: "The world's second-biggest generator
of carbon emissions can't simply walk out of the room when the heat
On Brexit: "Of course it's important we explore new
trading opportunities, with the United States and other nations
across the world but it must not be, and the cabinet is agreed on
this, at the risk of dropping any environmental standards
AR Gove is smart
enough to fear Venus.
Heiraten, so meine Erkenntnis mit etwas
Abstand, ist nicht nur überflüssig, sondern total bekloppt. Heiraten
ändert nämlich nichts. Nichts wird besser, schöner, sicherer.
Man fühle sich vor allem sicherer, sagen vor allem Frauen. Aber
das stimmt nicht. Verbundenheit ist ein Gefühl, das sich schon vor
der Heirat eingestellt haben sollte, sonst käme man ja auch gar
nicht erst auf die dämliche Idee mit der Hochzeit.
bedeutet für Frauen in Deutschland: sich klein zu machen. Etwa jede
dritte Ehe wird geschieden, und Unterhaltszahlungen sind auch nicht
mehr das, was sie mal waren. Seit 2008 gilt das Prinzip der
Siehe "Choice" oben!
Andrea Hanna Hünniger
Das, was am
perfektesten wirkt, scheitert oft umso brutaler. Ich möchte deshalb
schon vorab einen Vorschlag unterbreiten: Ich möchte das
Scheidenlassen gerne, wenn nicht verbieten, dann wenigstens
Auf dem Weg zur Ehe reden wir über die Liebe und
das Glück, aber nachdem die Ringe getauscht sind, sprechen wir ganz
altmodisch von Selbstauflösung, Loyalität und harter Arbeit. Wir
können uns zwingen, loyal und aufopfernd zu sein, aber wir können
uns nicht zwingen, zu lieben. Wir haben sehr wenig Kontrolle über
Wenn eine Beziehung in der Krise ist, machen
wir keine Pause, die lang genug wäre, um uns fragen zu können, was
das Eheversprechen eigentlich bedeutet hat. Stattdessen erzählen wir
Geschichten darüber, wie die Liebe durch Entschlossenheit und harte
Arbeit erhalten bleibt, angeblich, aber wir glauben unseren
Geschichten nicht wirklich.
Sich scheiden zu lassen raubt
nicht nur unfassbar viel Energie, es ist auch teuer und
gesundheits-schädlich. Die Möglichkeit des nächsten Partners ist zwar noch
da, aber wir können vorher wissen, dass dieser die gleichen Probleme
mit sich bringt. Nämlich unsere eigenen.
Solange man nicht
kotzen muss, wenn der Partner zur Tür hereinkommt, sollte man sich
nicht scheiden lassen. Gerade für Frauen bedeutet Scheidung in
vielen Fällen einen finanziellen Absturz und die totale
gesellschaftliche Vernichtung. Ehe heißt Unterwerfung, Trennung
heißt Emanzipation, sagt man. Das ist leider nicht wahr.
Ehe beginnt als hoffnungsvolles, großzügiges Projekt zweier
Personen, die noch nicht wissen, wer sie sind und wer der andere
ist. Eigentlich ist sie ein Akt des Verzichts und ihre Ethik die dem
Aushalten und der Solidarität.
AR Ledig ist
erträglich, gehieratet ist besser.
Brexit with Stukas
My cuts of
a few reviews
Geoffrey Macnab, The independent
Winston Churchill called
it a colossal military disaster. Christopher Nolan shows the blind
terror and helplessness of the 400,000 British
on the beach in the summer of 1940, seemingly abandoned, as Stuka
dive-bombers hammered them relentlessly.
The sound editing and
Hans Zimmer's pounding, disorienting electronic soundtrack induce
Nolan has gone to extraordinary lengths to
portray the Dunkirk evacuation in as realistic a fashion as
He intercuts between the stories of the soldiers,
sailors, and airmen. Much of the imagery seems surreal.
see the Germans at all, only their airplanes as they swoop down for
The soldiers wait for deliverance, hoping for a
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
A superbly crafted film with
a powerful story, Dunkirk is terrifying, shattering spectacle on a
desolate and apocalyptic beachscape.
Nolan's best film so far
also has Hans Zimmer's best musical score: the eerie, keening,
groaning sound of a nightmare.
The disaster is big, the stakes
are high, the anxiety is unbearable. The battle is over before the
The soldiers wait on the beach like survivors of
some horrible natural disaster.
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
Dunkirk is a work of
heart-hammering intensity and grandeur that demands to be seen on
the best and biggest screen within reach.
The strands of the
story unspool simultaneously, creating a sense that events are
driving toward a pivotal historical moment.
This is a British
film, with no concessions to the global market. The dialog is sparse
The actors are viscerally engaged with whatever
task is facing them in any given moment.
The superb Hans Zimmer
score is a constant presence.
Peter Debruge, Variety
This is the definitive cinematic
version of Dunkirk. Tommy is our avatar through the ordeal.
storyline features hardly any dialog, relying instead on us to adapt
to the unrelentingly harrowing situation.
Operation Dynamo was a
call to all civilian sailors, asking that they steer any ship or
boat they had across the English Channel
to rescue as many of the
stranded soldiers as possible. The Dunkirk beaches are a special
kind of hell in the film.
Andrew Pulver, The Guardian
With Dunkirk, Christopher
Nolan may at last be compared with the late, great Stanley Kubrick.
Nolan has taken on a cornerstone national myth and made a film as
stylistically bold as anything Kubrick engineered.
Dunkirk is not
Notional aibot with fog node
enabled by SAP Leonardo
SAP revises expected
total 2017 revenue to
KC Aerial Photo
Storm center 6 km
my sleepy head last night
Maxwell equations condensed
modern notation to a line
relating 4-vectors A and j
Messerschmitt Bf 109E
Josef 'Pips' Priller
2017 July 20
Brexit — FUK Madness
UK citizens living in the EU could lose the
right to live in another EU member state after Brexit. In talks this
week, the EU said it will not move without a guarantee for EU
citizens living in the UK to allow them to move to another EU state
and return to the UK.
Uncertainty faces nearly 5 million
people caught on the wrong side of the English Channel. About 1.2 million
UK nationals living in the EU are affected. EU officials say the UK
must make a reciprocal offer to protect the 3.5 million EU nationals
living in the UK.
Brextremists mad? Grant full reciprocal rights!
IoT Edge Computing
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of intelligent objects.
The core of an IoT solution is typically a central IT system for
storing, processing, and analyzing IoT data.
— IoT endpoints frequently cannot
transmit all their sensor data to the core.
— Some local systems
must make autonomous decisions fast and cannot wait for the cloud.
Edge processing can address these challenges.
An edge processing unit is a physical device, called an IoT gateway
or a fog node. It connects to devices at the edge and connects to
the core directly using high-speed internet. It also provides
security and lifecycle management at the edge.
computing is playing an increasingly important role in IoT
solutions. The industry trend is to deploy functionality as micro
services and use container technology for lifecycle management and
other benefits that come from isolation.
SAP Leonardo Edge
Services represent the forefront of defining and providing relevant
edge computing functionality such as persistence, stream processing,
visual and predictive analytics, and other micro services for the
edge. These services are designed for implementation on both
existing and emerging edge platforms.
SAP Leonardo Edge
— A distributed programming model for the edge
and the core
— A lifecycle model for edge services, platform, and
devices and sensors
— A deep integration with enterprise systems
to bring enterprise functionality to the edge
Edge Services empower live business by connecting things with people
AR SAP promotion — but music to my ears.
2017 July 19
Trump — Global Consequences
Stephen M. Walt
Donald Trump lacks competence. The
consequences in foreign policy are already apparent:
1 Big policy mistakes:
— Dropping the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
— Walking away from the Paris
— Failing to appreciate that China was not going
to solve the North Korea problem
Other countries do not pay much attention to Washington:
Arabia is ignoring US efforts to resolve the dispute between the
Gulf states and Qatar.
— Israel doesn't care what Trump thinks
about the Palestinian dispute or the situation in Syria.
Korea has announced it will begin talks with North Korea.
EU and Japan just reached a large trade deal.
— TPP-like talks
are resuming without the United States.
— Germany and Canada say
they need to chart their own course.
Emmanuel Macron of
France and Justin Trudeau of Canada treated Trump with more respect
than he deserves. You'd tread carefully, too, if you found yourself
in the same room as a drunk rhinoceros.
Brexit — Colossal Disaster
It would be a disaster for the UK to leave
Euratom. The EU must accommodate the British, who must accept the
jurisdiction of the ECJ when it comes to overseeing Euratom.
I would urge the UK government not to listen to Guy Verhofstadt or
Michel Barnier. Verhofstadt wants to achieve a United States of
Europe and now wants to punish the British. Barnier wants to make
sure that Brexit is such a catastrophe that no country dares to take
the step of leaving the EU again.
This is a terrible
situation. In Germany, we value the ties we have with the British
and we value your voice in Europe. So I say to MPs: if you want to
think again on Euratom, we are all ears.
As we all face the
disaster of Brexit, perhaps it's too much to hope MPs will tell
the British people: "We've all made a colossal mistake."
2017 July 18
Australian prime minister Malcom Turnbull:
"The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that
applies in Australia is the law of Australia."
to force tech companies to give security services access to
encrypted messages. Encryption uses hard mathematics that cannot be
overturned by an eavesdropper. With all due respect to security
services who want to read messages sent by suspected terrorists,
encryption cannot be weakened for terrorists unless it is weakened
UK home secretary Amber Rudd recently called
encryption completely unacceptable. Late last year, the UK
parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act that would force
companies to remove encryption. But encryption is also used for
online shopping, bank transactions, and so on. Politicians need to
Like it or not, the laws of mathematics are
here to stay.
mathematician James Clerk Maxwell was the great genius of
Victorian theoretical physics. His equations uniting electricity and magnetism
enabled him to conclude light was electromagnetic radiation.
All later physics, including relativity and quantum mechanics,
flowed from those equations and that insight. All the electric and
electronic technology that has transformed our world traces its
theoretical ancestry to them.
I have spent the last week or so
reliving (yet again) the drama of his discoveries by reading my way
through a tolerably informal mathematical derivation of the
equations from first principles. The hard work of writing it all out
was accomplished with easy fluency and a light touch by Yale
professor Ramamurti Shankar over some 300 pages of the second volume
of his text
Fundamentals of Physics. The experience has been a joy for me.
Let no one say physics is dull. Take your time and it comes
alive. The saga of how we went from tinkering with a collection of
curious experimental results in electricity and magnetism to a deep
and satisfying theoretical account that led us inexorably to
transform basic mechanics from its Newtonian roots first to special
relativity and then to quantum mechanics is one of the greatest
tales of our era. It sure beats Wagnerian opera!
2017 July 17
Die sozialen Unterschiede in Großbritannien
sind eklatant. Dass diese Unterschiede existieren, bezweifelt in
Großbritannien kaum jemand. Selbst wenn man die Monarchie mit der
Queen an der Spitze außen vor lässt, zerfällt die britische
Gesellschaft in sieben Klassen, laut der 2013 BBC Great British
Fast die Hälfte der Bevölkerung werden in die
drei untersten Klassen einsortiert, allein 15% im Prekariat. Diese
Menschen haben ein durchschnittliches Jahreseinkommen von nur 8.000
Pfund, so gut wie keine Ersparnisse oder Grundbesitz und sind auch
sozial und kulturell benachteiligt.
Wer nach den Ursachen für
diese Armut und damit für die extremen Unterschiede in der
britischen Gesellschaft sucht, muss sich drei Faktoren vor Augen
1 In der britischen
Geschichte gab es keine bürgerliche Revolution.
2 Das britische Bildungssystem ist immer
Neoliberalismus der letzten 40 Jahre hat die Situation verschärft.
Die soziale Mobilität ist in Großbritannien besonders gering.
Als Voraussetzung für hohe soziale Mobilität gilt allgemein ein
Bildungssystem, das auch den Angehörigen der unteren Schichten gute
Chancen bietet. Doch in Großbritannien hängt es noch heute von der
Klassenzugehörigkeit ab, wer welche Schule besucht.
Überdurchschnittlich viele Angehörige der Eliten waren auf
angesehenen Hochschulen: 10 von 23 Kabinettsmitgliedern in Theresa
Mays neuer Regierung haben Abschlüsse von Oxford oder Cambridge, sie
selbst auch. Drei ihrer Minister kommen aus dem gleichen
Studiengang: PPE — Philosophy, Politics, and Economics an der
University of Oxford.
AR Auch ich
habe einen Oxford PPE-Abschluss — bin
aber kein Vertreter der Oberschicht.
Brexit — KBO?
Nicholas Soames MP, a former army
officer and an ardent Europhile, offers advice to the prime
minister: "Do not be defined by Brexit. Don't allow this to dominate
the whole of the government."
On Brexit: "We look like we're not the
country we were. I worry greatly. We don't have a skilled economy.
We are way behind on our technical training. This is a poorly
educated country, frankly .. I'm not optimistic for my country. I
don't see how we're ever going to project our influence and our
standing and our power outside the EU .. Britain's voice is going to
diminish, I'm afraid."
He quotes his grandfather Winston
Churchill — keep buggering on.
Trillion Dollar Turkey
The F-35 joint strike fighter was supposed to answer to all
western air defence needs for the early decades of this century. It
is turning into an object lesson in the pitfalls of procurement. If
the UK Ministry of Defence continues on its present course, it may
find the planes for its two new aircraft carriers are vulnerable to
hackers, unable to fly in full stealth mode, and even in some cases
too heavy to fly at all.
JSF development began in 1996, the aircraft still has numerous
flaws. These include poor acceleration through the sound barrier.
Test pilots find it underpowered in dogfights. Engineers find it unreliable even by stealth aircraft standards. For the UK, its
ability to offer updated information about enemy movements far
beyond the horizon is available in stealth mode only with the
purchase of additional kit.
The full cost of the 14 aircraft
delivered to Britain so far is likely to be closer to £150 million
each than the up to £100 million cited by Lockheed Martin. The MoD
has committed to buying 138 F-35s. The JSF program was meant to meet
a wide range of service needs at once, at minimum cost. A trillion
dollars later, the F-35 is a turkey. MoD officials say the project is
on time, on budget, and the best option for Britain!
Brexit — Chaotic Handling
Brexit is about the whole of the UK. It
will affect all UK citizens, and EU citizens in the UK. This is much
bigger than one political party's internal divisions or short term
electoral positioning. It's about people's lives.
The Brexit negotiations need to be conducted with
full transparency. I believe they should involve more people with
more diverse opinions. Some recognition that the election result
was, in part, a rejection of a hard Brexit would be welcome.
The handling of Brexit so far has been somewhat chaotic. Over a year
since the referendum we have only just started the negotiations.
This delay has not been good for the UK, or for the EU, or for
Maryam Mirzakhani said mathematics
research feels like writing a novel. "There are different
characters, and you are getting to know them better. Things evolve,
and then you look back at a character, and it's completely different
from your first impression."
graduate at Harvard, Mirzakhani was captivated by hyperbolic
geometry. On a hyperbolic surface with two or more holes, some
geodesics are infinitely long but others close into a loop. The
number of closed geodesics of a given length grows exponentially
with their length. Almost all of them cut across themselves many
times before closing up smoothly. Vanishingly few simple geodesics
never intersect themselves.
In her 2004 doctoral thesis,
Mirzakhani developed a formula for how the number of simple
geodesics of length L grows as L gets larger. She solved two other
major research questions along the way. Her thesis resulted in three
papers published in the three top mathematics journals.
2006, Mirzakhani began a collaboration with Alex Eskin. They tackled
a problem concerning the behavior of billiard balls bouncing around
polygonal tables. Zig-zag paths on a table can be mapped to straight
lines on a translation surface. Understanding the moduli space of
all translation surfaces is the key to understanding billiards.
In 2012 and 2013, Mirzakhani and Eskin proved a major set of
results about such translation surfaces. Their 172-page paper is the
beginning of a new era.
British Antarctic Survey
A trillion tons of ice broke off Antarctica
Macron treats Trump
to display of French
pomp in Paris
"Democracy is the theory that
the common people know what
want, and deserve to
get it good and hard."
Claude Shannon worked at
Bell Labs and published his
mathematical theory of
communication in 1948.
He saw that bits
Our best black hole
and Kip Thorne
Juno image recalls
Vincent van Gogh
"I am not
hearing any whistling,
just a clock ticking."
Die Union könne
2017 July 16
Maryam Mirzakhani (1977—2017) was an Iranian
mathematician and a professor at Stanford University. She won three
gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1994 and
1995 and won the Field Medal in 2014.
Mirzakhani worked on the theory of moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces.
She discovered a formula expressing the volume of a moduli space
with a given genus as a polynomial in the number of boundary
components. She proved a theorem on closed
geodesics on a compact hyperbolic surface. With others, she proved
that complex geodesics and their closures in moduli space are
"Among other things, she studies billiards. But now, in a move very
characteristic of modern mathematics, it gets kind of meta: She
considers not just one billiard table, but the universe of all
possible billiard tables. And the kind of dynamics she studies
doesn't directly concern the motion of the billiards on the table,
but instead a transformation of the billiard table itself, which is
changing its shape in a rule-governed way; if you like, the table
itself moves like a strange planet around the universe of all
possible tables .. This isn't the kind of thing you do to win at
pool, but it's the kind of thing you do to win a Fields Medal."
Mirzakhani: "Of course, the most rewarding part is the 'aha'
moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding
something new — the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a
clear view. Most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being
on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight."
Brexit — World Role
We must decide what role the UK is willing to
play in the questions that will define this century.
of Parliament must lead the debate about what sort of international
role the UK can play. Grand strategy cannot be made behind closed
doors. A new foreign policy vision can only be successful if there
is public consensus behind it.
Parliamentary committees can
be hubs for new thinking about the UK role on the global stage.
Brexit — Rough Ride
David Davis says Brexit makes landing on
the Moon look simple. Sir Jeremy Heywood says Brexit is the most
complex challenge the civil service has faced in our peacetime
history. Amyas Morse says UK preparations risk falling apart like a
Brexit was a complex challenge for a
government with a clear majority and a strong and stable leader. The
government now has to get detailed legislation through with a
slender majority that could evaporate at key moments. We are in for
a rough ride.
Brexit — Nuclear Calamity
project will demonstrate nuclear fusion power on a commercial
scale. It involves the European Union, US, Japan, South Korea,
China, Russia, and India. Fusion can operate alongside solar, wind,
and other renewables to power the world to a carbon-free future.
For decades, the UK has led the world in addressing this grand
challenge. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) operates the Joint
European Torus (JET) on behalf of Europe. In so doing, we have
acquired unique capabilities in critical areas for fusion.
29 March, the UK government declared an intention to leave Euratom
at the same time as leaving the EU. The existing Euratom R and D
program ends in 18 months. It is vital that we negotiate a solution
for a strong future relationship with Euratom.
2017 July 15
Humans have a shockingly high
mutation rate. Our survival as a species suggests we have a way of
dumping dangerous mutations.
It may seem that natural
selection acts on mutations one by one. But perhaps the fates of
mutations are linked in synergistic epistasis where having one
mutation can compound the effects of another. Thus an individual
with more mutations is not just additively but more like
exponentially worse off.
As the number of nasty genetic
errors in a population rises, natural selection will dump lots of
them out of the genome together. In sexual organisms, because
mutations from each parent can recombine randomly onto the same
chromosomes, the synergistic expulsion can work faster.
Synergistic epistasis has been acting on us and other organisms.
Fewer individuals than expected have large numbers of dangerous
mutations, suggesting that at the high end there is stronger
selection against such individuals. There is no shortage of
individuals with milder mutations.
shuffles parental genes together in new combinations. It is hard to
justify as an evolutionary strategy because a sexual organism passes
on only half of its genes. An asexually reproducing organism gets
double the benefit, none of the hassle. Yet sex continues.
Sex pays off if it gets rid of dangerous mutations. Perhaps it wipes
them out by shuffling them into freaks that fail to breed.
The UK is making a spectacular mess of
In an unnecessary referendum, a small majority chose
an option that had not been worked out. A new prime minister adopted
the hardest possible interpretation of the outcome and triggered
exit before shaping a negotiating position. Then, in an unnecessary
election, she lost both her majority and her authority.
Conservative party is so split over Brexit as to be no longer a
coherent party of government. Party Brextremists fail to understand
that with no deal the UK would default on its legal obligations to
EU members. Anyone who thinks those members would then cooperate
over vital British interests is dreaming.
The UK ship of
state is stuck between a rock and a hard race. Brextremists have
reduced British politics to a shambles. There is no exit from Brexit
and no easy way to a deal.
Britannia sinks off Dunkirk.
Britain is suffering from politics. If the
will of the British people remains as it was in June of last year,
then Brexit will happen. But we can change our will.
Macron victory changes Europe. The EZ will integrate economic
decision making. Europe will have an inner and outer circle. Reform
is on the agenda.
The British people want a strong
relationship with Europe. A majority oppose hard Brexit. As for
immigration, the French and Germans share British worries.
Brexit is the biggest British political decision since 1940. The
government program is dominated by Brexit. It has no bandwidth to do
Government Brexit policy has turned into hard
Brexit or no deal. The Conservative manifesto was typical tough Tory
policy on social care and school meals, plus fox hunting. The public
I propose a radical policy agenda. The NHS, schools
and skills, nurseries, welfare, and retirement all need fundamental
redesign. Communities and people left behind need to be helped,
infrastructure needs to be built anew, and we need affordable
Brexit is a massive distraction.
2017 Bastille Day
Take Back Control
The UK government has published its European Union (Withdrawal)
Bill. The bill incorporates accepted EU law into the English legal
system and repeals the 1972 European Communities Act.
government has awarded itself vastly excessive executive power. The
task of melding EU and UK law is very tangled. The first major
constitutional event under the new sovereignty will be ministers
exercising powers to amend legislation without parliamentary
Conservatives are meant to place wise
administration before madcap utopian schemes. Yet, gripped by the
colossally stupid notion that Britain as a member of the EU was not
a free nation, they regard any economic price as worth the invisible
benefit of sovereignty.
The politicians who got us into this
mess don't know what they're doing. Their view of the EU is too
ideologically narrow. The prime minister needs to take back control.
Confront The Chancers
The domestic political context of Brexit is
shifting. In Brussels, Michel Barnier leads an organized and
rational team of negotiators. In London, amateurs, blowhards, and
Theresa May continues to repeat her Brexit
mantras. She is getting on with the job, working to get a good deal,
always talking as if the outcome is certain. But she is trapped by
the growing realization that Brexit is heading to be an economic and
diplomatic disaster for Britain.
In Hamburg, Donald Trump
offered Britain a "very, very big" trade deal "very, very quickly"
but has no authority to deliver one. For the UK, the trade partners
that matter most are places like Germany, Benelux,
and France. Rational statecraft would seek to preserve that trade.
The EU is still being patient with Britain. May could be tempted
to appease the Brextremists to survive her party conference. She
must confront them.
No one knows how black holes work inside.
They must either destroy information at their central singularity —
no go in quantum theory — or surround themselves at the event
horizon with a firewall — no go in general relativity. So perhaps
the ones we think we see are actually boson stars.
such as protons and electrons, have half-integer spin.
They cannot occupy the same quantum state as one another, so
electrons arrange themselves in different energy states around an
atomic nucleus, explaining the periodic table in chemistry. Fermions
are identified by their unique quantum states and obey Fermi-Dirac
Bosons, such as photons, have integer spin and obey
Bose-Einstein statistics, so any number of them can pile into
the same quantum state — and lose their separate identities in doing
so. Bosons carry the forces by which fermions interact —
photons carry the electromagnetic force. A bosonic collective state
is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.
When fermionic matter
forms a star, gravitational pressure heats it up enough to ignite
nuclear fusion and radiate light. By contrast, boson stars would
just form big toroidal lumps. They would be transparent and
invisible, given away only by their gravity. A compact boson star
would bend light around it, causing a lensing effect like a black
A boson star will attract mass, warm up, and
emit EM radiation. Spin 0 bosons could form stars. But photons have
spin 1, so no go. The Higgs boson has spin 0 but its mass is 125
GeV, so no go too. For bosons, the smaller their mass, the bigger
the stars they form. We're stuck.
I have added content to this cut to make it crunchier. A
massive boson star would be a black hole too, so I see no payoff — the problems inside are just as crass. And since a boson
star would attract fermions, it might well look much like any other
star. But what are these bosons? They aren't in the Standard Model.
2017 July 13
The Russian Connection
The New York Times
Rob Goldstone: "This is obviously very
high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its
government's support for Mr Trump."
Donald Trump Jr: "If it's
what you say I love it."
Trump Jr appears to be in real legal
jeopardy. Federal campaign finance law prohibits political campaigns
from soliciting anything of value from foreign nationals.
the Trump world, ethics is for suckers. Republicans in Congress are
maintaining their head-between-the-knees position as the Trump plane
America's First Family
The Trump administration is little more than
the Trump family plus some disposable retainers.
Jr solicited damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the
Kremlin. To Federal prosecutors, this is evidence of collusion with
a foreign power.
At the G20 summit, Trump spent 135 minutes
talking to Vladimir Putin. No one has a clue what they agreed. The
USA and Russia now belong on the same moral plane.
G20 meeting, Trump left the room and Ivanka Trump took his place at
the table between Xi Jinping and Theresa May. No other western
democracy operates like this.
As long as Trump is president,
the USA is vulnerable.
King Felipe VI of Spain, addressing an
audience of peers and MPs in the House of Lords as part of his state
visit to the UK, said the two countries had overcome differences in
"I am certain that this resolve to overcome our
differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar and I am
confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort our two
governments will be able to work towards arrangements that are
acceptable to all involved."
Bojo Defends Rock
The UK Foreign Office, headed by Boris
Johnson, defended the expulsion of a Spanish warship from the
disputed waters around Gibraltar. A Spanish patrol boat was told to
leave on Tuesday by a Royal Navy unit from the Gibraltar squadron.
Spain wants Gibraltar back and does not recognise the waters as
sovereign British overseas territory.
The status of Gibraltar
is part of the Brexit negotiations.
The European Project
Ann Mettler, Paweł Świeboda
The EU is delivering
economically. The EZ and broader EU recently recorded their highest
ever employment, investment is up, and growth is projected to be
twice as fast as US growth. Leaders have stood for reform in Europe.
A white paper on the
future of Europe published in March 2017 is being called the
birth certificate of the EU27. Europeans are ready to invest in the
common project. They realize that disintegration, illiberal
democracy, and populism are profoundly dangerous.
Europe can only prosper on the basis of the
vitality and legitimacy of the EU. Fundamental political choices must not be fudged or
decided behind closed doors. A wide debate is needed, engaging
citizens in new ways and making sure their voice matters.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will lay out
additional initiatives in his next state of the union speech in
September. For the EU to pursue business as usual would be a
profound misreading of the public mood.
2017 July 12
Clash of Civilizations
Donald Trump: "The fundamental question of
our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the
confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have
enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have
the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face
of those who would subvert and destroy it?"
terrorism is a concern. But to judge it an overriding existential
threat is ludicrous. Nazism was an existential threat. So was Soviet
communism. Terrorism is just a nuisance.
We must beware the
self-fulfilling prophecy of a clash of civilizations, not just
because it is untrue, but because we have to cooperate. The ideal of
a global community reflects today's reality. Technology and economic
development have made humans masters of the planet and dependent
upon one another. Borders are arbitrary.
In a nuclear age,
war should be unthinkable. But that does not make it impossible.
Managing frictions among nuclear-armed powers is an inescapable
Global Nuclear Weapons
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
overall number of nuclear weapons in the world continues to
decline. But all of the nuclear-armed states are modernizing
their nuclear arsenals. They will not be prepared to give
them up for the foreseeable future.
At the start of
2017, nine states possessed about 4150 operationally
deployed nuclear weapons. If all nuclear warheads are
counted, these states together possessed a total of about 14 935 nuclear weapons.
Im Kern, erklärt Rüdiger Safranski, gehe
es in dem diskussionswürdigen Werk von Sieferle doch nicht darum,
Auschwitz zu leugnen, sondern mitzudenken, "dass dieses 20.
Jahrhundert so voll von den Großverbrechen war". Auf "einer
metaphysischen Deutungsebene" werde in Finis Germania dargelegt, wie
nach "der allgemeinen Überlieferung sich dann ein auserwähltes Volk
und das extrem Böse, das Deutsche gewissermaßen gegenüberstehen"
eine Gedankenfigur, die auch jüdische Denker schon formuliert
Finis Germania: Hitler sei es "für alle Zeiten"
gelungen, "den Deutschen und den Juden eine komplementäre
Sonderrolle" in der Welt zuzuweisen. Es gebe ein "positiv
auserwähltes Volk", nämlich die Juden, und ein "negativ auserwähltes
Volk", die Deutschen. Im Programm des antifaschistisch inspirierten
Multikulturalismus macht man sich nun Sieferle zufolge genau diese
Opposition zunutze, um "das indigene Volk der Industrieländer" zum
Gegner zu erklären und "dessen Widerstand gegen Immigration und
Überfremdung" zu brechen.
Kurz: Der Holocaust rottet die
Deutschen aus, denn die Antifaschismus-Keule sorgt heute dafür, dass
wir jeden Migranten ins Land lassen und somit untergehen.
AR Deutschland ist in Europa integriert
— am besten so können die Deutschen sich aus dieser
Britain Memorial Flight turns 60: A legitimate piece of living
history is mutating slowly into a focus for celebrating
exceptionalism that borders on pathological jingoism — Britain
punches above its weight on the global stage etc.
"The more strain on its ends,
the tighter it becomes"
Reception with Poole
and a Jackson
2017 July 11
Apple v Google
Mihir A. Desai
Apple and Google parent company Alphabet
are the two most valuable companies in the world, with a combined
market capitalization of over $1.3 trillion.
Apple and Google
have taken completely different approaches to their shareholders and
to the future, one driven by investors and the other by founders and
Apple faced pressure to redistribute its cash
pile of almost $100 billion by the end of 2011 to shareholders. Most
of the cash was in Ireland, and it would incur big US taxes upon
repatriation. So from 2013 to March 2017, Apple released $200
billion via dividends and buybacks, and took on $99 billion in
Google founders maintained voting control
over the company. But by 2012, as the founders sold stock and
employees were issued shares in their compensation packages, Google
gave founder shares 10 times the voting power of regular shares.
From 2013 to March 2017, Google generated $114 billion in cash flow
but only distributed $7 billion to shareholders.
On how to
spend the profits, the interests of managers and investors can
diverge. Apple lets investors dominate, which checks managers who
might pursue goals that enrich themselves. Google lets managers
decide, since big investors who also act for other shareholders may
not serve the real interests of the company.
No one knows
which is the better strategy.
Brexit and National Humiliation
Brexit Britain appears to face a choice
between three different types of humiliation:
1 Britain becomes so desperate for a
trade deal that it accepts all the EU terms, including a bill of up
to €100 billion, the free movement of people, and the jurisdiction
of the ECJ.
2 Britain refuses,
crashes out of the EU without a deal, bets on the promised "very,
very big" trade deal with Trump's America, and makes "global
Britain" look like a sick joke.
Britain accepts that there is no good Brexit and abandons the whole
idea. Even to secure a return to the EU, Britain might have to give
up its cherished budget rebate.
Each of these results will
cause dismay and anger in Britain. Eurocrats may find a Britain
humbled by Brexit easier in the long run. Postwar Germany shows
being humbled can be good for the soul.
2017 July 10
China has always attached great importance to
Germany is a competitive exporter and manufacturer,
and thus an ideal model for China. Its social welfare and market
system have been widely debated in China. For decades, Germany has
had a big market share in China.
President Xi Jinping is
likely to discuss with German leaders how to further boost bilateral
ties and become bigger players in each other's markets by removing
trade and investment barriers.
Globalization faces increasing
challenges, especially with the UK departure from the EU and US
policy to make America Great Again, which is nothing but trade
protectionism. US President Trump has also pulled the United States
out of the global climate change agreement.
free trade and closer global connectivity, and remains committed to
fighting climate change.
For China, Germany is the way into the
A Postmodern Power
As a top exporter embedded in the Eurasian
continent, Germany is heavily invested in globalization.
Environmental, trade, and regulatory disruptions hurt it more than
most. Its defences are geopolitical alliances, diplomatic
compromises, and a dense web of links.
Angela Merkel has
moved closer to China in response to the US political turn, but has
kept her options open. She is constructively ambiguous. But she can
move fast and hard — flipping positions on nuclear power in 2011, on
refugees in 2015, and last month on EU treaty change in support of
Germany makes no pretence of
self-sufficiency. It accepts its own vulnerability, its own lack of
a reliable protector, its own inextricability from mutually
compromising alliances and sub-alliances. Ulrich Speck calls Germany
a postmodern power.
In the European Parliament we accept that
the Brexit decision was a democratic choice. We are not convinced
Brexit would be a positive development for European citizens. The UK
proposal fails to put citizens first and would cast a dark cloud
over the lives of millions of Europeans.
Michel Barnier wants
British people and Europeans to keep the same rights and the same
level of protection they currently enjoy under European law. All
rights acquired before the date of withdrawal will be directly
enforceable, with lifelong protection, full reciprocity and equal
treatment. A majority of the British people want to keep their EU
The UK response proposes that Europeans would
have fewer rights than British citizens are offered throughout the
EU. Europeans will not only lose their right to vote in local
elections, but family members will be subject to minimum income
requirements, and each family member, including children, will have
to make separate applications for settled status. Those who do not
meet the five-year residence requirement by the end of the grace
period will have to make one application to stay and another one for
The real cause for concern lies in the
continuing uncertainty. British courts apply the laws adopted by
British politicians. British and European citizens should be able to
enforce their rights under a mechanism in which the ECJ plays a full
Brexit negotiations must be completed by 30 March 2019.
Any extension would require the UK to hold European elections in May
2019. That is unthinkable.
A Better Way
Theresa May pledges to be more open and conciliatory and calls
on opponents to work together to shape a better way forward for
Britain after Brexit. She appeals to Labour and other parties to
come forward with their ideas for policy.
AR Internally, the only conceivable way
for the UK to make a success of Brexit is with cross-party
agreement. Externally, the only way is with EU good will.
Altogether, a better way to ensure UK success is to give up the
whole stupid idea.
2017 July 9
G20 Leaders' Declaration
G20 Germany 2017
Mastering the challenges of our age and shaping an
interconnected world is the common goal of the G20 as our premier
forum for international economic cooperation.
and technological change have contributed significantly to driving
economic growth and raising living standards across the globe.
However, globalisation has created challenges and its benefits have
not been shared widely enough. By bringing together developed and
emerging market economies, the G20 is determined to shape
globalisation to benefit all people.
We are resolved to
tackle common challenges to the global community, including
terrorism, displacement, poverty, hunger and health threats, job
creation, climate change, energy security, and inequality including
gender inequality, as a basis for sustainable development and
stability. We decide today to take concrete actions to advance the
three aims of building resilience, improving sustainability and
We take note of the decision of the
United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The
Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is
irreversible. We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris
Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in
accordance with the principle of common but differentiated
responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of
different national circumstances.
I have zoomed on a hot topic, naturally.
German historian Rolf Peter Sieferle
took his own life last September at age 67. Last month, a posthumous
collection of his observations on German political culture,
Finis Germania, hit #9 on the Nonfiction Book of the Month list
and #1 on the Amazon German bestseller list.
and resents the tragic course of German history: "If Germany belongs
to the most progressive, civilized, cultivated countries, then
Auschwitz means that at any moment the human progress of modernity
can go into reverse."
Sieferle is critical of the postwar
culture of Holocaust memory, which he argues has taken on the traits
of a religion. Hitler bound Germans and Jews together in a narrative
for all time. Germans appear in this narrative as the absolute
enemies of our common humanity, as a scapegoat people.
Sieferle sees Germans as the new Jews. Christians had cast Jews as
either indifferent to or responsible for the crucifixion. Today,
German identity symbolizes a similar rejection of some kind of
revelation. Sieferle: "Today, the Jews, to whom God himself had
promised eternity, build memorials throughout the world to their
murdered coreligionists. Not only are the victims ascribed a moral
superiority, the wrongdoers and their symbols are ascribed an
Sieferle thought all this had left
Germans unable to say anything but yes to a million or so migrants
seeking entry to Europe in 2015. He thought such a welcome was
unsustainable. His argument can sound thoroughly offensive.
AR I must read this tract.
2017 July 8
UN Treaty Bans Nuclear Weapons
Countries meeting at a UN conference
adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Statement from France, UK, US
France, the United Kingdom,
and the United States have not taken part in the negotiation of the
treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. We do not intend to
sign, ratify or ever become party to it. Therefore, there will be no
change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to
Putin v Trump
Vladimir Putin should not have had the upper
The Russian agenda
was to publicly mend the relationship, to gain a better
understanding of US policy, and to discuss joint concerns over
terrorism. They scored on all three.
intelligence agencies, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and
many others are confident that the Russians intervened in the
American election last year. But a simple assurance from President
Putin overrides that. For the Russians, the public case is closed.
Fight Like the Poles
Sarah Palin tweet:
Trump Gives Speech to the
People of Poland, Says 14 Words That Leave Americans Stunned
Young Conservatives CEO Josh
This is the 14-word quote the social media post is
Let us all fight like the Poles. For family, freedom,
for country, for God.
AR Here is
an immortal episode from European history the Young Conservatives
In 1683, an Ottoman army of between one and two
hundred thousand men led by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha advanced
on Vienna and besieged the city for two months, but was then
defeated by the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The death blow for the Ottomans came
when some twenty thousand cavalrymen — reputedly the largest cavalry
charge in history, led by King Jan III of Poland at the head of
three thousand "winged hussars" — charged down a hill and broke the
Ottoman lines. In less than three hours, the Christians had won.
Vienna was saved. After the battle, King Jan paraphrased Julius
Caesar by saying Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit (we came, we saw, God
conquered). The Christians pressed home their victory and forced the
Ottomans to give up large territories in Europe.
book Coral, p. 116)
2017 July 7
Physics in a Nutshell
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of
infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."
Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell
Quantum field theory
remains the true theory of everything. All of physics can now be
said to be derivable from field theory. To start with, quantum field
theory contains quantum mechanics as a (0 + 1)‑dimensional field
theory, and to end (perhaps) with, string theory may be formulated
as a (1 + 1)‑dimensional field theory. Quantum field theory can
arguably be regarded as the pinnacle of human thought.
Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell
Einstein gravity has in
time become a model for theoretical physics. It remains to be seen
how fruitful this approach will prove to be, but there is no denying
its appeal for theoretical physicists. Latch onto a well-established
but not understood physical fact, start with an attractive
mathematical framework, get the whole enchilada in one fell swoop,
and enjoy a dramatic, almost immediate, confirmation. When this
approach works, as it did for Einstein, it's fabulous, no question.
Group Theory in a Nutshell for Physicists
Group theory is
much more than a temptress: it is our indispensable guide to a
fundamental understanding of the universe. The Lorentz group
determines for us how the fundamental fields should comport
themselves in spacetime. Eventually, group theory, together with
quantum field theory, shows us how three of the four fundamental
interactions can be unified. And thus we arrive at the threshold of
our understanding of the universe.
Great — were it not for the bad dreams of Brexit, nuclear
war, climate change ..
An image of
order in a city become an anarchist battlefield
G20 is the central forum for
international cooperation on
financial and economic issues.
G20 accounts for more than
of GWP, 75% of global
trade, and some 65% of
"The Liberal Democrats
do not want to go down the coalition road
again. I have
the metaphor of mating with
a praying mantis — you get
eaten at the end of it."
Presidents Trump and Duda
Warsaw on Thursday
Foreign Funded Islamist
Extremism in the UK
The Henry Jackson
US Forces Korea response
"My gift to American bastards!"
"Hard Brexit means
people fleeing UK"
AR Me 4 1
A photographic stroll along
the prom from Canford Cliffs
to Bournemouth Pier
60% of Brits want to remain
EU citizens after Brexit
2017 July 6
Glyndebourne Festival 2017
An opera in two acts by Brett
Dean, based on the play by William Shakespeare
AR A bold and vivid production with an
audaciously Wagnerian intensity
EU Red Lines
We must face the facts. In a classic
negotiation 'no deal' means a return to the status quo. In the case
of Brexit, 'no deal' is a return to a distant past.
heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single
market and build a customs union to achieve frictionless trade —
that is not possible.
1 The free
movement of persons, goods, services, and capital are indivisible.
We cannot let the single market unravel.
2 There can by no sector by sector
participation in the single market.
The EU must maintain full sovereignty for deciding regulations.
These three points were already made clear by the European
Council and by the European Parliament. But I am not sure whether
they have been fully understood across the Channel.
AR The UK government got it wrong. It
was clear to me from the start.
Vote Leave Doubts
As the reality of Brexit comes ever
closer, remainers concede that the only way it can be halted is if
British public opinion has a change of heart, collectively
repudiating their 2016 vote.
Vote Leave director Dominic
Cummings was behind the "£350 million for the NHS" slogan on the
side of the battlebus. He says that unless MPs force management
changes on both Downing Street and Dexeu, the Brexit negotiations
will be a guaranteed debacle. For Brexit to work, there has to be
wholesale reform of Whitehall, British education, science, and
productivity. He had already described Brexit as "the hardest job
since beating Nazis" and said it was being handled incompetently.
There will be more in this vein as the consequences of Brexit
become more real. As people see the scale of the upheaval, there
will be more people who admit they got it wrong.
AR Stuck as I am in the middle of this
horror, I can only hope good sense finally prevails.
Poland is an economic star. Since 1991, its
economy has grown at an average annual rate of 4%. Its average income has risen to near $13,000, from $2,300.
Poland set out to distance itself from Russia, and adopted the
financial discipline and institutional reforms required to join the
Warsaw is the conservative opposite of
decadent Moscow. Its tycoons embrace entrepreneurship with an
enthusiasm rarely found in Europe, making Poland a natural
US ally. Poland is already one of the few NATO members meeting its
commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense.
Europe is rising, with small nations like the Czech Republic leading
and Poland close behind. With a population of nearly
40 million and a half-trillion-dollar economy, Poland is working its
way up as a manufacturing power. Exports from manufacturing account
for a third of GDP in Poland.
The Polish deficit and public
debt remain manageable, the currency remains stable, exports
continue to boom, and the trade balance is in surplus. Poland,
rising through manufacturing, is likely to be the next rich nation.
AR Poland's performance since 1991
outshines that of the UK.
Science communicators explain scientific
theory and practice to a general audience. As the sector has
expanded in recent years, the focus has become public engagement. A
British Science Association survey shows 20% of science
communicators in the UK work mainly as freelancers.
UK says funding bodies want to embed public engagement in
research. A University of Bristol national coordinating center for
public engagement (NCCPE)
provides funding for specific projects and says all research
programs must include public communication.
AR There is surely good work for me to
do in this sector.
2017 July 5
Korean War Plans
The United States has no viable military
option to destroy the NK nuclear program. Even a limited US strike
risks staggering casualties, because NK could retaliate with
thousands of artillery pieces aimed at SK. A strike would likely
fail to wipe out the NK arsenal. NK says it would immediately
retaliate with nuclear missiles.
Let China make the heavy move.
"Crush the Fuckers"
Theresa May has been reduced to dealing
with the DUP to secure a fragile Commons majority. Cabinet ministers
are breaking ranks on Brexit and the economy. A minister: "There is
no plan, no strategy, no direction."
In October, the
Conservative party conference in Manchester will showcase a party
torn over Brexit. A pro-EU MP on his Brextremist colleagues: "We can
work with half the Labour party and crush the fuckers."
AR Worse things have happened in
German chancellor Angela Merkel looks
set to be re-elected. Her main political opposition is trailing in
polls and the far right appears to have peaked.
ambassador to the US Peter Wittig: "We have an extremely good
economic run: record low unemployment, record low youth unemployment
.. pretty good social security system, less people that feel left
behind, less losers of globalization, not a dramatic inequality. So
there's a strong social tissue and that has helped us."
Nearly 70% of German voters favors EU membership. Wittig: "We have
benefited from Europe. We don't have this anti-Brussels discourse."
AR Germany is the cradle of European
With fossils and DNA, scientists are piecing
together a picture of human origins. The expert consensus is that
Homo sapiens evolved at least 300,000 years ago in Africa. Johannes
Krause and his colleagues report that Africans first walked out over
270,000 years ago and made their way to Europe.
AR Now the Africans are doing it again.
When Donald Trump travels to Europe, his
hosts can only hope he will not sabotage the western alliance.
Theresa May will be challenged to overcome damage already done by
the diplomatic vandalism of Brexit. The decision to quit the EU and
the Trump election are terrible twins.
everything May says in a miasma of unreliability. Her ambitions for
the UK will mean nothing before the terms of departure from the EU
are settled. She will find no queue of leaders eager to ingratiate
themselves with a country on the threshold of magnificent
Brexit did not beget Trump, but there is a
genetic link. The EU referendum demonstrated the insurgent potential
of a campaign that mobilized economic and cultural grievance against
a remote political elite. Trump called himself "Mr Brexit" and cast
Nigel Farage as his supporting act.
Many Europeans saw the
electoral shocks of 2016 as cautionary tales, not inspiring
parables. Neither the EU referendum nor US presidential election now
seems like a giant moment for geopolitics. The West has been doubly
AR Tragic —
Untergang des Abendlandes
2017 Independence Day
North Korea claims to have conducted its first
successful test of a long-range missile that it says can reach
anywhere in the world. The Hwasong-14 IRBM reached a height of 2,800
km during a flight of 37 minutes over a horizontal distance of 930
km. The regime appears to have timed the launch for maximum
political effect on the eve of the July 4 holiday.
Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything
better to do with his life?" Donald Trump tweeted, referring to Kim
Jong Un. "Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up
with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North
Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "The situation on the Korean Peninsula
is sensitive and complex. We hope all relevant parties will exercise
restraint and avoid taking actions that may escalate tensions."
AR This looks ominously like Korean
The UK voted for the biggest international
dislocation in its postwar history but has no discernible strategy.
It is inconceivable that a deal can be negotiated by March 2019.
There are three broad scenarios for the post-Brexit economic
1 The UK stays in,
or close to, the EU single market, perhaps via the EEA.
2 The UK leaves the single market but
remains in a full or partial customs union.
The UK seeks the best preferential partnership it can get as a third
None of these outcomes matches the economic benefits
of EU membership.
Mark H. Kim
In February 2016, the leaders of the Laser
Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced that
they had successfully detected gravitational waves.
A team of
independent physicists led by Andrew Jackson has checked the data
and found correlations that should not be there. They say the
correlations could call the entire discovery into question.
LIGO scientific collaboration member Ian Harry published a rebuttal
of their criticism. Harry says the Jackson team missed some
subtleties in their data analysis, and that he could not reproduce
their claimed correlations.
Gravitational waves are
exceedingly faint, so LIGO can measure a change in distance of 100
zm. LIGO uses two observatories, 3 Mm apart to duplicate the
observations. The noise at each detector should be uncorrelated, but
a gravitational wave should create a nearly simultaneous signal in
Jackson claims there appears to be
correlated noise in the detectors at the time of the gravitational
wave signal. At worst, the signal might have been louder noise.
Harry says the Jackson team could have misused the Fourier
transform, which requires that the input data signal be cyclical. A
non-cyclical signal would introduce subtle errors.
confidence is high in the LIGO conclusions. The LIGO team have since
found gravitational waves from two further black hole mergers.
AR Science at its best — always
critical, always cautious.
Popular books on physics and physics textbooks
present different challenges. I enjoy writing textbooks a bit more
because the aim is to transmit enjoyment and knowledge to a new
generation of physicists, just as that enjoyment and knowledge have
been transmitted to me. That, in essence, is what physics is all
I am excited by the prospects of learning more about
the dark world of energy and matter, and of experimentalists coming
up with clever new approaches. I am struggling to finish a short
popular book on Einstein gravity.
I am just embarking on climbing the mountain of Zee's
Nutshell trilogy. For me it will be a tough but hopefully also
2017 July 3
Two new genetic technologies have started a
scientific and medical revolution. One is the ability to easily
decode the information in our genes. The other is our newfound
capacity to modify or edit the DNA sequences of humans and other
The genomes of microbes contain regular DNA
sequences called CRISPR — clustered regularly interspersed short
palindromic repeats. The bits of DNA found in the spaces between the
repeats had come from viruses and had been integrated into the
The CRISPR sequences activate a series of
proteins known as CRISPR-associated proteins that can unravel and
attack DNA. The CRISPR sequence and one such protein act together as
a kind of immune system for microbes.
proteins can be used to alter any DNA to achieve a desired sequence.
If you know a DNA sequence from a given organism, you can chop it
up, delete it, and change it at will, much like using a
word-processing program on texts.
Gene drives are artificial
bits of DNA that rapidly spread through the population. When a gene
drive is used, the frequency of the altered gene increases
exponentially with each generation, rapidly flooding the whole
population. A gene drive is essentially a biological bomb.
2017 July 2
National Rifle Association of America
use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to
teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use
their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to
repeat their narrative over and over again ...
All to make
them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism
and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut
down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding
The only way we stop this, the only way we save our
country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the
clenched fist of truth.
Grace Under Fire
The New York Times
Donald Trump lacks the
grace under fire that Richard Nixon showed in public. At the height
of Watergate in late 1973, Nixon blurted at a news conference: "I
have never heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted
reporting in 27 years of public life. I am not blaming anybody for
that. Perhaps what happened is that what we did brought it about."
Jeremy Corbyn addressed
thousands on Saturday at an anti-Tory rally in London organized by
the People's Assembly Against Austerity.
Jez: "This is the
movement that will win the next election."
Been There, Done That
Something momentous happened in Britain's relations
with Europe. About a year later, Britain has a minority government
cutting deals to try to get its legislation
through the House of Commons. A wooden Tory prime minister,
confident of a landslide victory in an election called in the
national interest and on the question of whom voters trust to run
the country in challenging times, ends up with egg on face. Britain
enters a period of profound political instability.
The prime minister was Ted Heath, the year was 1974. The UK joined
the EEC in 1973 and a large majority of Brits voted in the 1975
referendum to stay in it.
Times change: The EEC is now the EU and the UK looks like FUK.
A Green Brexit
I want to ensure that we have
a green Brexit: a Brexit which ensures that we develop policies on
the environment and animal welfare which we would not have been able
to do in the EU.
One of the things I want to do is see how we
can better support investment in environmental goods rather than
simply rewarding people for the number of hectares they have. If
you've got a sum of money that large, it shouldn't be devoted to
maintaining certain landowners in the style to which they have
AR Gove was on
the Andrew Marr show this morning.
Marr: "Is no
deal better than a bad deal?"
The inflationary multiverse might be the
same as the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics if the
formation of new bubble universes is simply an example of
quantum-mechanical branching as viewed by a single hypothetical
observer: a new bubble forming is equivalent to obtaining an outcome
of a measurement. This picture solves the theory's predictability
problem because the infinitely many bubble universes in this case
coexist probabilistically rather than in one real space. In this
conception, the observer in an inflationary multiverse can make
predictions based on the probability of any event occurring.
AR This is good — it makes everything
finite. Our Hubble bubble contains some 10^123 Planck grains of
action, so even with some combinatorial jiggery-pokery the state
space can be finite. And the principle of stationary action implies
that broad outcomes are predictable even when individual state
reductions are random on our timeline. So forget the infinite cosmic
bubble bath Max Tegmark and Sean Carroll expected and forget the
Everett nightmare of branching off into crazy worlds — we live on
a timeline where all those crazy action paths cancel in the Feynman
path integrals and everything is finite. Let's hope Nomura is right.
2017 July 1
World War II
In 1940, as France was collapsing under the
German onslaught and the Dunkirk evacuation was under way, Winston
Churchill decided to fight on, alone if necessary. He was the
British bulldog, an incarnation of strength, courage, and tenacity.
In the austere aftermath of the war,
its grim experiences were replayed in countless movies. They all
assumed it was fought for a just cause. Shocking newsreel pictures
of the liberation of Belsen consecrated it as a triumphant crusade
War films helped to sustain pride in British
greatness as the exhausted country tried to win the peace while
beset by grievous new troubles. In 1945 Britain was virtually
bankrupt, facing what John Maynard Keynes called an economic
Churchill's ghost haunts the bronze bust that Donald
Trump restored to the Oval Office. Boris Johnson assures us that
national salvation is to be found in standing alone. A fresh crop of
war films reminds us of lost British greatness.
Free LSD For All!
If I ruled the world, I would step down and
go back to theoretical physics. First I would:
Abolish borders and armies
● Abolish private property
● Abolish such documents as passports
● Abolish religion
● Abolish tribal behavior
And I would
make free LSD available for all adolescents willing to explore new
AR Oh Carlo, your
book on quantum
gravity is lovely but this lot is utopian (except for the LSD
idea, which is cute).