Atlas does backflip
SpotMini — a dog?
Leonardo da Vinci
First Space Nation
DUBAI AIRSHOW 2017
£1 = $1.31
€1 = £0.89
Airship on Venus
"Europe must be white"
"Anarchy in the UK has come
about because Brexit has
country. There is
no definite will of the people,
refuse to acknowledge
each other's reality."
2017 November 20
Germany — Jamaika Talks Fail
● Groko (CDU—SPD form new
● Minority government (CDU
goes it alone)
● New elections (Angela Merkel
Germany — Taboo Theme
Timothy Garton Ash
Alternative for Deutschland (AfD)
leaders denounce Angela Merkel for opening German frontiers in
September 2015 to massed refugees. The AfD scores best in the
territory of the former German Democratic Republic. There is a
striking inverse correlation between the number of immigrants (or
people of migrant origin) in an area and the populist vote.
The collective psychology of this East German vote includes the
poisonous legacy of a society behind the Berlin Wall that was
anything but open and multicultural. They see Muslim foreigners
welcomed in Germany with open arms and getting everything for
nothing. The knowledge that everything includes generous welfare
provisions only sharpens the resentment.
Germany as a whole
is doing well economically. The AfD gathers the discontented from
every walk of life, but those who predominate in its ranks are men
of the educated upper middle class. This distinguishes German
populism from many other populisms.
Götz Kubitschek played a
big part in the development of the AfD. He helped promote the party
career of Björn Höcke, whose plangent rhetoric of cultural pessimism
and völkisch nationalism would have been entirely at home in the
Weimar Republic. Höcke once said that for the first time in a
thousand years the question arises of the end of Germany.
Kubitschek published a book by Rolf Peter Sieferle called
Germania. On July 20, 2017, the Spiegel nonfiction best-seller list
on Amazon left a gap in sixth place, until the following books were
silently lifted up a place. The real number six was Finis Germania.
The Spiegel editors had censored their list — but the effect of
their decision was that even more people bought the book.
Sieferle said Germany had frozen its Nazi past, and Auschwitz, into
a myth or a state religion in which the Germans are forever the
negative chosen people and the Jews the positive chosen people.
Subjecting Sieferle to the taboo treatment supports his contention
that his theme is beyond the realm of rational debate.
2017 World Toilet Day
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe sacked from
party, resigning from office.
Our universe is a bubble in a cosmic ocean.
Beyond what we can see is more of everything, for more light years
than we can count. Innumerably many universes like ours pop up in
the ocean. These universes expand, but the ocean expands far more
quickly, driving them apart from each other.
The farther away in space we look, the farther back in time we
look too. At the limit, beyond the first stars, all we can see is
the leftover glow from the big bang. This is our bubble universe.
Before the big bang that blew our bubble, cosmic inflation
expanded the ocean exponentially. The oceanic quantum field decays
from an unstable high-energy state to a stable low-energy state. The
decay creates big bangs and bubble universes of all possible kinds.
Eternal inflation forms separate bubbles endlessly in an
infinite ocean. The whole bubble bath is the multiverse.
The center of our Milky Way produces much
more gamma radiation than we expected. Highly energetic gamma
rays appear to be coming from all across the galactic plane — and
more antimatter streams through the galaxy than we expected.
Recent studies suggest pulsars can explain these anomalies.
Researchers divided the region of the sky covering the galactic
center into numerous pixels and measured the gamma ray fluctuations
in each pixel. The variations suggest the signals come from many
It seems the abundance of positrons in the
galaxy may also be due to pulsars. Pulsars generate huge magnetic
fields that spin along with them and generate electric fields that
pull electrons into space and accelerate them. As the electrons
spiral out, they emit gamma rays. Some of this radiation is
energetic enough to create pairs of electrons and positrons.
Two nearby pulsars, Geminga and Monogem, emit not only gamma rays
directly but also highly energetic gamma rays that appear to form
halos around them. Throughout this halo, electrons coming from the
pulsar collide with photons from ambient starlight and transfer huge
amounts of energy to them. Geminga converts 8%—27% of its energy to
electrons and positrons. Monogem converts twice as much.
Pulsars produce a tremendous amount of antimatter within our galaxy.
2017 November 18
Brexit — Transition To Tyranny
Brexit means abandoning an association
based on equal standing and exposing ourselves to coercion by other
nations. Our relationship with the United States is likely to look
like that of servant and master. We will remove ourselves from a
regime in which we have full rights and full representation, and
enter one in which we have little of either.
In the UK,
almost every cultural reference point is poorly defined, weak and
contested. British public services have all been gutted, disciplined
and undermined by those who assert their patriotism.
enabling state is allowed to wither, what remains is the
authoritarian state. As the enabling state shrinks, the flags must
be unfurled, the national anthem played, schoolchildren taught their
kings and queens, and elaborate pieties offered to dead soldiers.
National pride becomes toxic.
This is the Britizen Jon scenario.
Lord Adonis: "What was clear from my
meetings in Brussels is that they desperately want us to stay.
I didn't meet a single person who thought that the EU would be
better off without us."
Michael Heseltine: "I simply can't
contemplate with equanimity the idea of the president of the United
States, the prime minister of India, the president of China, flying
into Berlin, Paris, to discuss major international events hosted by
the European Union, with Britain waiting to be told what the
communiqué says. It is about influence and power and top tables."
Peter Mandelson: "To compete with the EU, we will be led
inexorably down the path of a less taxed, less regulated business
environment. The economy may be more globalised, in reality more
American, but the public will become less protected."
Emmanuel Macron: "The door, of course, is still open as long as
Brexit negotiations have not been concluded."
"It is in fact up to London how this will end, with a good deal, no
deal or no Brexit."
1 Revoke Article 50
2 Extend negotiations
3 Vote in parliament
4 Hold general election or second
2017 November 17
Saudi Arabia Versus Iran
Saudi Arabia has found a new purpose in
recent years — to check Iranian influence. The ruthless ambition of
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman radiates across the Mideast. Saudi
foreign and security policy has gone into overdrive:
intervention in Yemen has been costly and inconclusive. It could
lead to the transformation of the Houthi movement into something
akin to Hezbollah — but much closer to Saudi borders.
Saudi blockade of Qatar has been more successful. The effort to tame
that country has worked and the crisis has now been put on the back
burner of international diplomacy.
● The latest Saudi
venture in Lebanon is also likely to backfire. The forced
resignation as prime minister and probable house arrest of Saad
Hariri plays into the hands of Iran and Hezbollah.
Mideast balance of power is determined in Syria and Iraq, where Iran
is well ahead. Iran has shown that it will be there for its friends
and allies in good and bad times. Saudi Arabia has not.
Brexit — Shipwreck
British politics is close to meltdown. The UK
economy suffers from deep weaknesses. Brexit is likely to expose
The aftermath of the financial crisis has been
devastating. A generational divide has opened up and the UK economy
is the most regionally divided in Europe. GDP per head has only
regained pre-crisis levels in London and the southeast.
employment looks good but part-time employment is relatively high
and various categories of insecure work have greatly increased. Pay
at the top has exploded: 30 years ago, company chief executives were
paid on average about 20 times the salary of the average worker. The
ratio is now about 150 times.
UK productivity per hours
worked is among the lowest for high-income countries and has
flatlined since the crisis. UK investment is weak by the standards
of comparable countries and has tended to fall as a share of GDP for
This is not a vigorous and healthy economy. It
is absurd to suggest otherwise. Beware a shipwreck.
AR Shipwreck is the metaphor in
SAP HANA and Hibernate
Since SAP was founded in 1972, developers
have been at the heart of our success. SAP believes openness is a
fundamental requirement to attract and engage with developers. Open
source frameworks play a crucial role in accelerating innovation.
SAP supports open source foundations and initiatives including
Apache, Eclipse, Node.js, OpenStack, Cloud Foundry — and now
Hibernate, a suite of open source projects from Red Hat that provide
simplified data persistence for relational databases and domain
models. The flagship Hibernate project is its object/relational
mapping framework for Java developers.
recognized SAP as a leader in the magic quadrant for operational
data management systems.
Schneiss and I were colleagues in the SAP HANA team.
Work and Play
Zen master Alan Watts taught us to experience
things as they are here and now.
Watts: "You are involved by
and large in a very strange business system which divides your day
into work and play. Work is something that everybody does and you
get paid to do it because .. it is so abominable and boring .. And
the object of making money is to .. buy pleasure."
concept of sacrificing time for money is a cultural construct.
Choice is essential for humans to feel motivated and in control, and
our calling certain commitments work strips choice away.
Humans are playful by nature. We consider play enjoyable. We choose
to focus our attention on it, we strive to get the most out of it,
and if we do it well, we get lost in a world of joy and awe.
Alan Watts said we forget that the boundary between work and play is
illusory. Nothing in the world is inherently interesting. Things are
interesting because we make them interesting.
There is no
reason not to enjoy work. It need not be the opposite of play.
2017 November 16
Masters of the Universe
Eight of the world's most highly valued
companies are technology businesses. Their combined market
capitalisation is $4.7 trillion, 30% of the combined market cap of
all the rest in the world's 100 most valuable firms. The top 5
(Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook) are US companies,
together worth over $3.3 trillion.
The most highly valued
European tech company is SAP, with a market cap of $135 billion,
placed 60 in the top 100. Apple has a book value of $134 billion but
a market valuation close to $900 billion. The difference reflects an
expectation of enduring monopoly profits resulting from innovation
and economies of scale.
Apple has total assets of $375
billion but fixed assets of $34 billion. The company sees no
profitable way to invest its huge profits in its business. It is now
an investment fund attached to an innovation machine. A lower
corporate tax rate will not raise its investment. Territorial taxes
are defective in taxing global technology companies.
are vital to a free and democratic society. Google and Facebook are
expected to earn 63% of all US digital advertising revenue in 2017.
We consumers have elected the tech titans masters of the universe.
Ross 128 b — Earth 2.0?
Ross 128 b, just 11 light years away, is
roughly Earth-sized and orbits its parent star once every 9.9 days.
Its surface temperature could lie somewhere between –60 and 20 C,
making it temperate and a possible home for life. It has about 1.35
times Earth mass, hence stronger gravity.
closest Earth-like world to us is Proxima Centauri b, discovered in
2016, which is 4.24 light years away. But Ross 128 b may have an
advantage for habitability, as Proxima Centauri is an active star
that emits torrents of UV and X-rays, whereas Ross 128 is a
quiescent red dwarf.
Ross 128 b was found by with the ESO
instrument HARPS. The ESO European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT)
opening in 2024 will provide images 16 times sharper than the HST.
It will let us analyze light from Ross 128 b for oxygen in its
atmosphere — an indicator for life.
2017 November 15
Beatrice Fihn leads the International
Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize
for 2017. Her big idea is to treat nuclear weapons not as a power
tool for world peace but as weapons of mass destruction along with
biological weapons and chemical weapons.
Nuclear weapons are
often mentioned in terms that obscure the ugly reality. When
President Trump refers to the "full range" of US military
capabilities, he means nukes. He does not say he is ready to use a
weapon of mass destruction to indiscriminately kill civilians,
irradiate survivors, and so on.
Fihn wants to reframe the
debate and set a clear norm that nuclear weapons are unacceptable.
She says the tensions between the United States and North Korea
remind us that a nuclear war can happen as long as the weapons
exist. Any nuclear war will cause appalling casualties.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was born in 1949 to
oppose the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union died in 1991, no one
tackled the big questions about its ongoing purpose.
Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, the presidents of Turkey and
Russia, are working together. NATO member Turkey plans to spend $2 billion
on a Russian-made S-400 missile system.
NATO Article 5, the clause promising armed solidarity, was activated after 9/11. Since then only
Turkey has sought to invoke it, in 2012, when Ankara tried to draw
NATO into the Syrian conflict.
NATO must tell Erdogan to
respect the contours of alliance policy. If he wants to
subvert NATO in the Mideast, the alliance can live without him.
Erdogan can either leave NATO or try to be a loyal ally.
Putin poses a threat. We should take seriously his fear of
encirclement, end the process of NATO enlargement, and resist
Russian attempts to drive America and Europe apart.
UK Defence Cuts
Former JFC commander General Sir Richard Barrons says UK armed
forces are on the brink of failure unless the government allocates
an additional £2 billion a year.
He says the British army is
20 years out of date. It needs a whole new fleet of armoured
vehicles, new wheeled vehicles, more air defences and drones, and
better cyber capabilities.
Former Royal Navy head Admiral Sir
George Zambellas says the navy is institutionally underfunded and
insufficient to tackle the threat from Russian submarine activity
off the British coast.
Trident and let the rest of the armed forces flourish. Strategic
nukes add little to UK security and serve mainly to give the British
brand a bit more bling.
2017 November 14
The Future of Europe
The Financial Times is launching a new
project to brainstorm about the future of Europe. Professors at six
universities across Europe asked their students to write essays on
the following questions:
● Should the next frontier for
Europe be deeper integration or more power to nation states?
● Would it be wise to
reconsider the four founding freedoms in the EU treaties?
● Is it time to concentrate on
EZ priorities rather than the broader EU27?
● To what extent is German
leadership of Europe desirable or necessary?
The European Union is based on freedom
of movement for goods, services, capital, and people. The four
freedoms are to the EU what golf is to a golf club.
a logic behind the unity of the four freedoms. One can divide the
four freedoms into two categories: economic outputs — goods and
services, and economic inputs — labor and capital. The logic is
based on political reasoning.
UK prime minister Theresa May's
infamous "citizens of nowhere" remark reveals the Brexit mentality.
In the EU you are always a citizen of your home state and of the
union itself, no matter where you live. You are European.
Europe of variable geometry will not be one in which member states
opt in and out of the four freedoms. All member states will accept them. Any new EU-UK association agreement would need to
accept freedom of movement.
prime minister Theresa May needs help to push Brussels for a
breakthrough in Brexit talks. EU leaders fear she may not survive to
deliver on promises made during Brexit negotiations.
secretary David Davis says the government will let MPs vote for the
Brexit deal on offer or for no deal.
Drones Over Venus
work well on Venus. Venus has a thick atmosphere and we could
fly a 200 W drone up at about 50 km where the pressure
is 1 bar and the temperatures around 75 C. At this altitude, our
craft will get about twice the intensity of sunlight it would over
Earth to work with for power.
once every 243 days. Our drone could fly slowly along the equator and stay in daylight. Our drone has an infinite
power source in an adequate atmosphere at an acceptable temperature. With its solar panels on a 40 cm
could fly at a steady 5 km/h around the equator forever.
Winds in the Venusian troposphere gust up to 360 km/h, but they are
minimal at the equator. To explore more, we could configure our drone like an aircraft to use the
wind to stay aloft. Clouds of sulfuric acid could rot the
craft and heat could damage it, but otherwise it looks good.
Northrop Grumman has a concept for a Venus Atmospheric
Maneuverable Platform (VAMP — blog 2015-08-31), a big inflatable
aircraft resembling a B-2 bomber. VAMP would cruise around Venus at
an altitude between 50 and 70 km — much like flying on Earth.
2017 November 13
Mars today is inhospitable to human life.
Its surface is largely dry and arid, its atmosphere thin and toxic,
and its climate frigid. We will need to terraform the planet before
we can colonize it.
Mars has an atmospheric pressure of about
600 Pa, nearly all CO2, with no liquid water and an equilibrium
temperature of 215 K. The Martian north pole is frosted with water
ice and the south pole is capped with CO2 ice.
the southern cap could increase the atmospheric pressure by up to 10
kPa. The current temperature of the south pole is about 142 K,
almost warm enough to do so. We need only warm up the south pole by
about 5.5 K to start the process. Then the temperature and pressure
on Mars will rise to about 225 K and 10 kPa.
Another 30 kPa
of CO2 is frozen in the Martian regolith. Once the south pole CO2 is
sublimated, the regolith CO2 will join it. The atmospheric pressure
will rise to 40 kPa and the equatorial temperature will exceed 273 K
An orbiting mirror could beam down enough
sunlight to start the process if it were 70 km in diameter.
Halocarbon generators could pump out enough greenhouse gas to
accelerate the process.
Once a warm atmospheric blanket is in
place, photosynthetic plants can pump out oxygen. Plants also need
water to survive, but Mars has plenty of frozen water. The plants
will deplete the CO2 and the halocarbons will deplete ozone and
hence raise the surface UV levels, so our colonists will need to
manage the atmosphere.
Terraforming Mars is the first step
in our quest to become an interplanetary species.
Mars Terraformer Transfer (MATT)
The MATT concept uses a
commercial satellite to terraform a region of Mars in 2036, creating
a persistent lake for use by mission crews.
MATT terraforms a
city-sized region for habitation. A satellite shepherd guides a
selected celestial small-body impactor to a selected target site. A
powerful laser provides the shepherding impulse. The laser and other
instruments deflect, analyze, and restructure the small body, over
some years, for optimized impact on Mars.
injects heat into bedrock, producing meltwater for a lake that
persists for thousands of years within the warmed impact site. Here
the challenges for crewed missions are ameliorated. MATT habs can
scale to millions of cubic meters. Treated lake water can cover and
protect underwater domes.
Scaled Mars habs can also house
commercial offices for telerobotic open-pit mining of rare and rare
2017 Remembrance Sunday
Die Vereinigten Staaten von
Amerika haben ihren Führungsanspruch verwirkt. Mit der Wahl von
Donald Trump haben sich eine Krankheit derart verselbstständigt,
dass die vernünftigen Kräfte in den USA sie nicht mehr ausgleichen
können. Diese Analyse ist ebenso verwegen wie die Vorstellung, dass
stattdessen Europa weltpolitisch führen sollen.
Elitenverachtung, Misstrauen in Institutionen und Gewaltenteilung,
eine von Feindbildern getriebene Spaltung der Gesellschaft, die
Sehnsucht nach Abschottung und Schutz vor dem kulturell, religiös
oder ethnisch Anderen — damit ist eine innerwestliche Krise
beschrieben, nicht bloß eine inneramerikanische.
eine fast 250 Jahre lang gewachsene und widerstandsfähige
Demokratie. Amerikas Gewaltenteilung funktioniert. Die EU, eine
Gruppe aus 28 Staaten, die ausdrücklich kein Superstaat werden will,
kann schwerlich eine Supermacht sein.
Die EU ist ziemlich
stark darin, ihre Stärken zu beschwören, und ziemlich schwach darin,
ihre Schwächen einzugestehen. Das gilt auch für ihre Wirtschaft. Sie
gründet auf Voraussetzungen, die Regierungen selbst nicht schaffen
Weil die amerikanische Neigung zum Exzess derzeit
eher zu- als abnimmt, muss Europa ein stärkeres Gegengewicht bilden.
Aber diese neue Stärke muss sich innerhalb einer Partnerschaft mit
Amerika entfalten. Denn bevor Europa dort ist, ist Trump längst
2017 November 11
When Consciousness Began
Julian Jaynes published
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
in 1976. It still sells today.
Jaynes: "Consciousness is a
much smaller part of our mental life than we are conscious of .. It
is like asking a flashlight in a dark room to search around for
something that does not have any light shining upon it. The
flashlight, since there is light in whatever direction it turns,
would have to conclude that there is light everywhere. And so
consciousness can seem to pervade all mentality when actually it
does not ..
.. it is perfectly possible that there could have
existed a race of men who spoke, judged, reasoned, solved problems,
indeed did most of the things that we do, but were not conscious at
Jaynes said that until about 3 ky BP, humans relied on
a bicameral mind, with one half speaking to the other in the voice
of the gods to guide on their way. The bicameral mind eventually
broke down as human societies became more complex, and our forebears
awoke with an internal narrative.
Jaynes says the characters
in The Iliad do not look inward or act by choice but only do what
the gods tell them. He suggests the right hemisphere used to be the
source of prompts sent to the left side of the brain. These became
hallucinations that helped guide humans through difficult
The bicameral mind enabled humans to manage in
rigidly hierarchical societies. But around 3 ky BP, stress from
overpopulation, natural disasters, and wars overwhelmed the voices.
The breakdown of the bicameral mind led to a more flexible way of
life. The modern mind was born.
I loved the book. I see it as locating the evolutionary
origin of the architecture of personal autonomy.
Quantum theory says systems before
observation are in a superposition of all possible observable
states. A quantum state vector encodes all allowed outcomes of
measurement and their relative probabilities. A measurement
collapses the state vector to give a unique outcome.
Wigner imagined he was outside a windowless room where his friend
measures a system. She knows what the observed property of the
system is, but he cannot say that the state vector has collapsed
until she tells him the result. Until then, he can only think of her
and her system as forming one big superposition.
solipsism may be logically consistent with quantum mechanics. But we
get an infinite regress: Is he too in a superposition of states
until he relays the result to his other friends?
Brukner imagines that the friend measures the system and collapses
the state vector, producing either outcome A or B, but tells him
only that she sees a definite result, not what it is. He can only
conclude that his friend and her system are in a joint
superposition, even though he knows a measurement has happened.
His friend is in state A or state B, but to him she is in a
superposition of A and B. Both are right, depending on whose point
of view you adopt. In quantum theory there is no privileged
perspective for a third observer to reconcile the viewpoints.
Markus Müller imagines that you observe a system and see state
X. Given that, your chance of seeing another state Y is defined in
algorithmic information theory by representing your experience at
any instant as a string of bits. Your history is a random walk
through the various possible bit strings.
As these random
experiences stack up, the conditional probability of the next bit
string is higher for simpler bit sequences than for complex ones, so
a simple model emerges. Recall that in the kinetic theory of gases
the probability distribution of random configurations of gas
molecules is peaked and simple laws emerge for observable
properties. In quantum theory too, from minimal assumptions you can
recover a world like the one we know.
I explored this view in depth in my book
Mindworlds. More fun
is the movie
What the bleep do we know?
2017 November 10
The End Is Nigh
The next few years will change the status of Britain. The UK
will depart from the EU in March 2019. The Elizabethan era, the
symbol of postwar British stability, may end at much the same time.
For Brexiteers, the EU is a fog that shrouded British glory.
Power once lost is now found. A
new era of national glory and buccaneering global trade will dawn. Britain
will be great again.
Leaving the EU will shrink the UK. A
slow and gradual descent, rather than a singular cataclysm, will see the economy grow slowly rather than vigorously. Investment levels
will remain stubbornly low as investors turn elsewhere. The City of
London will contract.
The next US president will whisper
sweet nothings about the special relationship with Britain. But with no route into the diplomatic chambers of Europe, London
will mean less to Washington.
The end of the
Elizabethan era will see the nation diminished in the name of
The UK will have lost the EU but failed to find
is the mood music of Britizen Jon.
2017 November 9
Brexit — Deadline
Brexit talks resume today in Brussels.
Without sufficient progress this month on the divorce settlement,
the EU may be unable to discuss transition talks at its summit in
The European Parliament issued a blunt
warning over citizen rights. Its demands include a cost-free
and near-unconditional settled-status application process for 3
million EU nationals in Britain, which would only begin once a
transition period ends. Such demands go far beyond what the UK has
offered, but MEPs can veto the final divorce deal.
Germany are urging the EU27 to stand firm. EU chief negotiator
Michel Barnier was unable to persuade them to let transition talks
begin in parallel to divorce talks.
Brexit — Taxation
Why did rich Brits campaign so hard for
In 2015, Britain rejected EU plans to combat tax
avoidance by global multinationals. Britain had built a corporate
tax haven for multinationals that included slashing corporation tax
from 28% to 20% and introducing favorable tax regimes for
multinationals with offshore financing subsidiaries.
in 2015, British MEPs voted against EU plans to require companies to
report where they make their profits and pay taxes. The plans
included sanctions against countries or territories worldwide that
fail to curb tax evasion. The EU pushed ahead — its rules take
effect in 2019.
A hard Brexit frees the UK from these rules.
Brexit — Endgame
European Union leaders are preparing for the fall of Theresa May
before the new year, as the prime minister lost her second cabinet
minister in a week.
Fears are growing in Brussels that the
instability of her government raises the risk of a change of
leadership or elections leading to a Labour victory.
options are under consideration in Brussels, including a disorderly
Brexit or a reversal of the Brexit decision after new elections.
Trump — Survival
Donald Trump has not actually carried out most
of his lunatic campaign rhetoric. His supporters can argue that he
is more moderate in practice than his rhetoric would suggest. The
more compelling explanation for his failure to make good on his
1 Trump doesn't really
believe in much beyond his own awesomeness. He didn't mean a lot of
he said — it was just something to rouse
the rubes at rallies.
2 Trump has
been utterly incompetent. Even if he wants to achieve more of his
agenda, he has no
idea how to do it. The only
things he has accomplished are those he can do by executive order.
3 Trump has staffed his
administration with people based largely on superficial criteria. As
he is surrounded by aides who view
him as a screwball to be contained, not a sage to be followed.
The past year has dispelled naive hopes that Trump would grow in
office or become more presidential. He is still an ignorant,
petulant, unethical, avaricious, conspiratorial, nasty, shameless,
Alice and Bob talk
Wormhole with octopus
My sister in Oregon
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
Sir Robert Syms MP
with PCA political deputy
chair Viv Allen
with PCA chair Peter Adams
his wife Brenda
around a neutron star
2017 November 8
Priti Patel Exits
Priti Patel has resigned as UK international
development secretary amid controversy over her meetings with
ER = EPR
Juan Maldacena conjectures that
wormholes between distant points in spacetime — ER bridges — are
equivalent to entangled quantum particles — EPR pairs. This is ER =
Black holes evaporate via Hawking radiation. But the
idea that a dying black hole erases all record of everything that
went into it violates the principle of unitarity in quantum theory,
which holds that information is never lost when particles interact.
Given unitarity, the information must escape.
quantum gravity drew Maldacena to the ER = EPR idea. The implied
relationship between tunnels in spacetime and quantum entanglement
posed by ER = EPR resonates with the idea that space is essentially
stitched into existence by quantum entanglement.
The ER = EPR
idea can be extended by equating a traversable wormhole and quantum
teleportation. If a traversable wormhole connects a parent black
hole and a daughter black hole formed from half of the Hawking
radiation given off by the parent as it evaporates, the two systems
are entangled — information from the parent worms its way out of the
Let Alice and Bob have entangled quantum particles
a and b, respectively. Alice wants to teleport a qubit q to Bob, so
she prepares a combined state of q and a, measures that combined
state (reducing it to 1 or 0), and sends the result of this
measurement to Bob. He can then use this as a key for operating on b
in a way that recreates the state q, in effect teleporting q.
Say Alice throws qubit q into black hole A. She then measures a
bit of its Hawking radiation, a, and tells Bob the result through
the external universe. Bob uses this knowledge to operate on b, a
Hawking particle from black hole B. Bob reconstructs q, which
appears to pop out of B, a perfect match for the particle that fell
into A. Information is recovered from black holes.
Traversable wormholes cannot be used as time machines. Anything that
goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice to talk to Bob in
the outside universe before it can exit B, so the wormhole offers no
superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel.
Traversable wormholes seem to be permitted in nature as long as they
offer no speed advantage.
The new work suggests there is no
firewall at black hole horizons. The interior and exterior of the
black hole are two complementary ways of looking at the same system.
An observer passing across a black hole horizon would notice nothing
Unitarity is preserved because whatever falls into
one black hole exits the other as Hawking radiation. We can think of
the radiation entangled with the black hole — EPR — as being
connected to the black hole interior by wormholes — ER. A theory of
quantum gravity might imply ER = EPR.
Preamble (Quanta, 2015)
ER = EPR is a shorthand that
joins two ideas proposed by Einstein in 1935. If it is correct, the
ideas form the foundation of spacetime. Leonard Susskind and Juan
Maldacena say quantum entanglement could create the connectivity
that sews space together — without it space would atomize.
The firewall paradox: If a black hole event horizon is a smooth
interface, the particles coming out of the black hole are entangled
with particles falling into the black hole. To conserve information,
the particles coming out must also be entangled with particles that
left long ago and are far out in a cloud of Hawking radiation.
Maximum entanglements are monogamous, between just two particles, so
spacetime inside the throats of black holes cannot be smooth. This
implies a firewall.
Susskind and Maldacena suggest that ER =
EPR implies an octopus wormhole that entangles the interior of the
black hole directly to particles in the expanding cloud.
AR See blog 2017 June 25.
2017 November 7
UK Ruling Class
Britain is almost unique in its
vulnerability to amateurism, scandal, and electoral indecision.
Power is concentrated in national government, its executive branch,
and its prime minister.
An effective government can build a
welfare state, as Labour did after 1945, or free an economy, as the
Conservatives did from 1979. A poor government can ruin everything.
Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump are parallel
experiments with national sovereignty. But America is designed to
prosper despite its politics. Most mature democracies have codified
balances, this set against that, to limit the reach of mere politics
into the life of the nation.
The British system trusts the
life of the nation to a few offices and prays for worthy occupants.
Without EU membership, which restrains government, that
concentration of power intensifies. Constitutional reform is needed
as a hedge against bad government.
The Paradise Papers
Democracy is rotten in Brexit
Britain. Three myths:
1 The British public is fighting its
— Wrong. The elites are fighting their publics by
denying them revenues for hospitals and schools. Shuttling between
tax havens is an elite sport, and the loser each time is the rest of
society, which sees its tax base shrink.
2 Austerity was the
only correct response to the crisis.
— Wrong. A recent study
that found wealthy Britons have stashed about £300 billion in
offshore tax havens. Tories punish the poor but reward the rich for
fear they will flee offshore. London has more super-rich residents
than any other city.
3 The British public is spoiled by a
surfeit of democracy.
— Wrong. Rich non-dom Brits have the
most say. Tory donor Michael Ashcroft was granted a peerage after
promising to give up his non-dom status, yet he continues to shelter
millions offshore. Telegraph owners Sir David and Sir Frederick
Barclay have their island hideaway of Brecqhou. Daily Mail inheritor
Viscount Rothermere has non-dom status. News Corporation owner
Rupert Murdoch presides over 152 subsidiaries, including 62 in the
British Virgin Islands, 33 in the Caymans, and 15 in Mauritius.
Big Finance and runaway inequality rot democracy.
Watch Amber Rudd
Theresa May calls for a new culture of respect
in public life. But the chaos of the sex scandal will surely hasten
the departure of a prime minister presiding over a party split from
top to bottom over Europe. Although most MPs thought she would
struggle on until after March 2019, many doubt she can survive that
As for who might take over, David Davis once had his
female supporters parading around in T-shirts with "It's DD for me"
emblazoned across their chests. Boris Johnson is a diplomatic
disaster zone. Liam Fox has already resigned once for letting his
best man into meetings. Damian Green may no longer be seen as a safe
pair of hands. Philip Hammond has alienated many with his budget
blunders. Andrea Leadsom has opponents who would walk across hot
coals to stop her becoming prime minister. Priti Patel had to
apologise over unauthorised meetings in Israel. Ruth Davidson cannot
make it to Westminster in time.
Amber Rudd is the one to
The RNA world hypothesis was that life emerged out
of RNA. But RNA would not evolve spontaneously. Both RNA and
proteins must take the form of long, folded chains to work, and the
early Earth would have prevented strings of nucleic or amino acids
from growing long enough.
A protein-folding model treats the
20 amino acids as colored beads: blue hydrophilic beads (polar
monomers) and red hydrophobic ones (nonpolar monomers). A chain of
beads folds along the vertices of a 2D lattice. Which square a bead
occupies depends on how the red beads clump to avoid water.
Permutations of hydrophobic and polar monomers give all possible
red-and-blue necklaces up to a given length. A few per thousand of
these sequences collapse into compact foldable polymer
structures that expose a hydrophobic patch of red beads on their
This patch can serve as a sticky landing pad for
hydrophobic sections of sequences floating by. If a single red bead
and a red-tailed chain land on the hydrophobic patch at the same
time, energy favors the two sequences linking together. The
patch acts as a catalyst for elongating polymers.
A few of
those elongated polymers fold and expose their own hydrophobic
patch. These can form an autocatalytic set to catalyze the formation
of copies of themselves. The number of protein molecules would grow
exponentially. RNA would evolve later.
2017 November 6
Dawn of Life
Ribosomes are molecular machines found
inside every living cell. They read the genetic code contained in
DNA and use it to construct the proteins that build us.
ribosomes differ from those of a lowly bacterium only in the
ornamentation on their outer surface. As evolution progressed, new
species tacked extra bits of RNA to their ribosomes. The common core
is the part of the ribosome that worked in the last universal common
Researchers explored the ribosome by
recognising the insertion fingerprints in its decoration. They
looked further and found ancient traces pointing before LUCA. Every
time they found an addition, they snipped it away, pruning down to
more primitive layers, all the way down.
The most ancient
part of the ribosome is a stretch of RNA that includes the
cradle-resembling region that today links amino acids to form
protein-like chains. This rudimentary ribosome had none of the
precision needed in LUCA. It must have linked amino acids, and
probably whatever other molecules would fit into its cradle, into
short random chains.
As random fragments churned out of the
molecular sausage-maker, a few had a shape that helped them stick to
the ribosomal RNA. The mess of co-evolving RNA and protein fragments
included a range of molecules that self-assembled. Chemical
evolution winnowed through the randomness and selected the
components that clung best together.
Life needs a genetic
code and precise replication of a genome. In modern cells, code from
the central DNA library in the nucleus is copied out to the
ribosomes via messenger RNA. The ribosome binds the mRNA transcripts
and reads them three letters at a time, with each triplet coding for
one amino acid. The specified amino acid is escorted to the ribosome
by a transfer RNA.
In prehistory, the proto-ribosome made a
range of new molecules. Chemical evolution selected mRNA and tRNA
that were better and more precise at their jobs, eventually leading
to the genetic code found in all living things. At last, life had
Modern proteins all contort into intricate 3D shapes
that are essential to their function. For a protein to fold well,
one part of it has to fit tightly against another. As the precursor
molecules co-evolved, they would have selected protein fragments
that were predisposed to fold well.
The proteins associated
with the oldest part of the ribosome show little or no complex
folding. Moving to more recent parts of the ribosome, researchers
see proteins folding first into simple sheets and then into more and
more precise and intricate shapes. The RNA portions of the ribosome
also develop tighter and more stable folding.
When the oldest
part of a ribosome links small molecules into longer chains, the
link is sealed by releasing a water molecule. The first life may
have appeared around the fringes of a pond in conditions alternating
between wet and dry.
2017 November 5
The world's biggest businesses, heads of
state. and global figures in politics, entertainment, and sport who
have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens are being
revealed in a leak of over 13 million files obtained by the
Süddeutsche Zeitung. The revelations, for which more than
380 journalists have spent a year combing through decades of data,
Gabriel Zucman: "Tax havens are one of the key
engines of the rise in global inequality."
AR Outlaw the tax regimes in the
"paradise" satellites of the UK economy — Gibraltar, the Cayman
Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man, Jersey and
Guernsey. Demand compliance with mainland law on pain of military
action — such as one Trident warhead per island. If I must pay
UK tax then so should the paradise investors.
2017 November 4
We think of our world as the fruit of a
series of advances: domestication, public order, mass literacy, and
prosperity. We still like to tell a story that starts with
agriculture and the first Mesopotamian city-states, the classical
Greeks and their slaves, and the imperial Romans.
Around 5 ky
BP, droughts in the Fertile Crescent forced foragers to settle in
cities and eat grain to survive. Once a system of labor was in
place, fresh bodies were collected by soldiers in slave raids.
The exploitation machine called civilization was up and running.
Life in cities was probably worse than foraging or herding. City
dwellers ate poorly and they were vulnerable to epidemics. Unless
they were in the ruling class, they had to work not only to feed
themselves and their rulers but also to build palaces and city
Civilization was always linked with barbarism. Tacitus
suggested that German barbarians were more virtuous than settled
Romans. Anglo-Americans often traced their democratic identity to
the liberty of the forest rather than the cities of the
The built world that sustains humanity is so
vast that the infrastructure of civilization outweighs all human
bodies together by a factor of tens of thousands. Without it, global
population would fall to perhaps 200 million, as it was at the
beginning of the Common Era.
As white supremacists marched through
Charlottesville, their banners bore heathen symbols. In Iceland,
Ásatrú high priest Hilmar Hilmarsson looked on with horror.
Ásatrú is the largest heathen religion in Iceland. Based on the
worship of Thor, Odin, Freya, and other ancient deities, its modern
revival started in Reykjavik in 1972. It now has an estimated tens
of thousands of followers worldwide.
In Germany, where Viking
symbols were coopted by the Third Reich, heathens are wary. Karl
Seigfried plans to redact Ásatrú theology to tackle modern issues.
He recalls how Catholics in Latin America created liberation
Ásatrú high priest Hilmarsson says the racist
interpretation of heathenry is a perversion of his faith. He would
like to offer heathens a more compelling vision.
Physics in China
China plans to build an heir to the Large
Hadron Collider. The proposed supercollider would be 55 km in
circumference, twice the size of the LHC, and would define the
frontiers of particle physics for generations.
supercollider is the perfect embodiment of Xi Jinping thought and
the Chinese dream. It is a unique opportunity for China to lead an
entire branch of science.
Authoritarian states breed a
national pride antithetical to the ideals of big science. The
Chinese supercollider project still needs greater international
The LHC fosters collaboration among scientists
and institutions from countries in conflict, but collaborators at
the Chinese supercollider will be subject to political criteria.
Science depends on open access to the internet. The World Wide
Web was invented at CERN in 1989. Future particle physics will run
within the Great Firewall of China.
The success of the
Chinese supercollider will depend on foreign expertise, equipment,
and technology. The particle physics community must set terms for its engagement.
The Quantum Many-Body Problem
Computers show promise at resolving a problem
facing quantum physicists. The behavior of individual electrons is
easy. But once they start interacting with each other, negative
signs appear and the calculations hit an impenetrable mathematical
wall. A mathematical description needs to encode every possible
state that the system could occupy, so its complexity rises
exponentially. This computational wall for entangled particles is
known as the quantum many-body problem.
We can skip the math
and go straight to the science. Deep learning involves training a
computer to recognize patterns by passing data through multiple
layers in a digital network, each of which is coded to search for
specific features. Trained neural networks detect patterns in new
data. If a computer can classify configurations of electrons by
looking at them, then it can maybe do it for any number of
particles. We might get realistic quantum many-body models.
2017 November 3
PCA dinner with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
UK Defense — Politics
Former head of the British army Richard
Dannatt says Theresa May's decision to make her chief whip the new
defense secretary is not the best choice from a defense point of
view. Lord Dannatt said May had made a political decision to promote
Gavin Williamson because he is a trusted lieutenant.
parliamentary backlash followed the promotion. After Sir Michael
Fallon resigned amid allegations in the Westminster sexual
harassment scandal, other names were in the frame. But Williamson
had worked closely with May and helped stabilize her administration
after the June election.
Brexit — Russia
If the UK Electoral Commission has help from the intelligence
and criminal justice systems, it can ask whether Arron Banks, who
gave the largest donation in British political history to the Brexit
cause, got his millions from Russia.
Brexiteers will ask who
cares if Russia did throw a few roubles into the pot. For them, the
scandal is that the pro-Remain camp had the overwhelming support of
the entire establishment, yet when the British people were finally
given a chance they revolted.
Hot potato: If Russia skewed
the Brexit referendum, do we void the result and vote again?
Bryan W Van Norden
Mainstream Western philosophy is
narrow-minded, unimaginative, and even xenophobic. It used to be
more cosmopolitan. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz said of Chinese
philosophers: "They surpass us .. in practical philosophy, that is,
in the precepts of ethics and politics adapted to the present life
and the use of mortals."
Christian Wolff said
Confucius showed that it was possible to have a system of morality
without basing it on either divine revelation or natural religion.
Conservative Christians had Wolff relieved of his duties and exiled
from Prussia. But he became a hero of the German Enlightenment.
Immanuel Kant, who was notoriously racist, asserted that the
Chinese, Indians, Africans, and Native Americans are congenitally
incapable of philosophy. Contemporary Western philosophers who
follow him take it for granted that there is no Chinese, Indian,
African, or Native American philosophy.
E Moore (1873-1958) was one of the founders of analytic philosophy,
now the dominant tradition in the English-speaking world. When
Indian philosopher Surendra Nath Dasgupta read a paper to a session
of the Aristotelian Society in London, Moore's only comment was: "I
have nothing to offer myself. But I am sure that whatever Dasgupta
says is absolutely false." The audience of British philosophers in
attendance roared with laughter.
Anglo-American analytic (AAA) philosophers are in thrall to
science. National or ethnic qualifiers for the term "science" make
no sense for a true scientist.
2017 November 2
West v China
We in the west will be challenged to keep a
margin of superiority over China without developing an adversarial
relationship. We must see that management of our economy and
politics has been unsatisfactory for many years. We let our
financial system run aground in a crisis, we underinvested in our
future and let a gulf emerge between economic winners and losers,
and we let lies and hatred consume our politics.
Putin v US
Russia-gate will be a critical factor in US
domestic politics in the months to come. The Kremlin says Russia
never messed with the US politics. For Russians the meddling was
neither surprising nor scandalous.
Received wisdom in Moscow
is that Russia can regain its great power status only by confronting
the United States. President Vladimir Putin wants to make Russia an
equal partner with countries like China. From his perspective,
interfering in the US presidential election was a performance
organized mostly for a global public.
Russia is vastly weaker
in most ways than the United States. But the Kremlin believes that
power and weakness are complex concepts and the stronger party can
lose. Russians think he who dares wins.
A document drawn up by staff who work with Conservative MPs
accuses 40 of the MPs of sexual misconduct and harassment. The
spreadsheet of shame deserves a haiku:
Please keep your handsies
Entirely to yourselfies
It is not that hard
2017 November 1
Neutron Star Mergers
Neutron star mergers tell us a lot.
Combining the gravitational and electromagnetic signals from the
recently detected collision we have a clean way to measure the
In an expanding universe, the farther away
an astronomical object is, the faster it recedes. The
Hubble constant says how much faster. We estimate that galaxies move
away from us at around 70 km/s faster for each additional megaparsec
of distance away from us (a megaparsec is about 31 Zm). To date, the
two best ways of measuring the Hubble constant give different
A high estimate of 73 comes from estimating distance
and velocity for lots of astronomical objects. We measure their
redshift to find their recessional velocity due to cosmic expansion.
We then build a cosmic distance ladder. We start by deducing the
distances to stars in the Milky Way using parallax. Thus we deduce
the brightness of Cepheid stars, which serve as standard candles. We
spot them in nearby galaxies to calculate how far away the galaxies
are. In the galaxies we spot Type Ia supernovas — brighter standard
candles that let us see further out. In 2016, a team known as SH0ES
used this approach to peg the Hubble constant at 73.2, apparently
A low estimate of 68 comes from Planck telescope
data. The Planck team used the cosmic microwave background (CMB)
snapshot depicting pressure waves giving density variations at
different scales known as the CMB power spectrum. The Hubble
constant can be calculated from it. The team made assumptions about
other cosmological parameters to get a value of 67.8, supposedly +/-
The 68/73 discrepancy is still a mystery — but colliding
neutron stars can be standard sirens. They send out spacetime
ripples that are not dimmed by gas or dust. The waves transmit a
clean record of the strength of the collision that lets us infer the
distance to the source. We can also detect EM radiation from the
collisions and use its redshift to determine their recessional
velocity. Divided by distance, this gives the Hubble constant.
From the first collision alone, we calculate the Hubble constant
to be 70, give or take 10. We can improve the accuracy with more
Neutron stars may contain new forms of
matter. A neutron star is the compressed core of a massive star,
with a solar mass squeezed into a ball of radius 10 km. It is the
last stop on the line before a black hole.
A shiny 1—2 cm
veneer of normal atoms — mostly Fe and Si — coats a neutron star.
Below it, the atoms squeeze so close together that their electrons
form a shared sea. Deeper, the protons inside nuclei start turning
into neutrons, which cluster close enough together to overlap.
Nucleons are made up of three quarks. Under immense pressure,
these quarks might form a new state of quark matter. All that extra
energy might go into creating heavier particles that contain not
just up and down quarks but also strange quarks.
neutron stars that rotate quickly, sweeping a radio beam across
Earth with each spin. For pulsars in binary systems, what should be
a constant tick-tock of pulses hitting Earth will vary, betraying
their motion and location in orbit.
Pulsars have been
observed with about twice the solar mass. In theory, they should
collapse into a black hole. Neutron stars stuffed with interacting
quarks could be dense enough, while neutron stars made up only of
nucleons would be too big.
The Neutron Star Interior
Composition Explorer (NICER) is designed to find the size of neutron
stars by watching for hot spots on their surfaces. The experiment
should produce better radius measurements for neutron stars.
In the final second or so of the latest Laser Interferometer
Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) signal, the orbiting
pair of neutron stars started to stretch and squeeze each other,
generating tides that stole energy from their orbits. This made them
collide faster than otherwise.
Astrophysicists are looking
forward to new data from NICER and LIGO.
AR A neutron star mirrored ball — hero
Marx — Engels — Lenin — Stalin
Russia plans to test its new
RS-28 Sarmat ICBM this year.
RS-28 will replace the missile
with NATO name SS-18 Satan.
Weighing 100 Mg and with a
range of 10 Mm, it will carry
16 warheads, defeat
missile defense systems,
and pack enough
destroy an area the size
of Texas or France.
to the idea that
our fellow creatures have the
capacity to feel joy
and to suffer
comes above all from politicians
protecting the cheap methods
used by factory farms.
UK defense secretary
Sir Michael Fallon says
may jeopardize a £4 billion
deal to sell 48 Eurofighter
Typhoon jets to the Saudis
hard Brexit could
wipe almost 10% off GDP in
Ready for it?
2017 October 31
The Red Revolution
Lenin was a man who wanted to turn moral
values on their head. For him, as for Stalin, the dead were just
numbers. Human life counted for nothing next to the goal of a
Lenin was in effect the dictator of Soviet
Russia from 1917 until 1922. The rule of terror took hold in the
Marxist state. Mass killing became the main strategy to put down
Soviet Russia needed control over Ukraine to feed
the Soviet masses. In 1933, while millions died of hunger in
Ukraine, the Soviet Union exported record amounts of Ukrainian
butter and bacon. For Stalin the famine was a success.
the Soviet era, it was human beings who killed each other. Under
Lenin and Stalin, history itself exterminated class enemies. The
Soviet Union has been consigned to the dustbin of history.
Trump — Alt-Reality
President Trump and his media allies are
creating a vast alternate media reality that casts large swaths of
the US government as irredeemably corrupt. Their declared purpose is
to lay the rationale for Trump to pardon his close associates or
shut down the Russia probe.
Trump has recently revisited the idea of trying to remove Robert
Mueller, now Mueller appears to be digging into his finances.
Meanwhile, Stephen Bannon is privately urging Trump to try to get
Republicans to defund the Mueller probe.
dismissed the news of allegations against Paul Manafort and George
Papadopoulos as big nothingburgers. He also revived the fiction that
Hillary Clinton approved a deal for a Russian nuclear agency to gain
access to US uranium extraction rights in exchange for kickbacks,
and the absurd claim that the Clinton campaign colluded with Russia
to interfere in the election.
Hannity accused Mueller of
trying to change the narrative to distract from all this. Trump has
tweeted in support of many of these allegations. His media allies
cite such stories in support of the notion that Mueller should
resign or that Trump should close down the Russia probe.
need to confront the insanity and depravity of all this.
2017 October 30
North Korean Nukes
Can Kim Jong-un control his nukes?
Even if NK laboratories and factories are safe, weapons systems
break down, age, and suffer untold problems. The history of the cold
war is littered with accidents involving nuclear weapons and
incidents that could have sparked nuclear war.
assume that North Korea will invest in the safest designs for its
warheads or missiles. A warhead could detonate by accident. Kim
Jong-un would surely deflect blame by accusing the Americans or
others of sabotage or an attack.
Kim Jong-un will likely keep
all control over nuclear weapons in his hands, but he must delegate
authority in some way. If he lacks reliable communications with his
nuclear systems, then the uncertainty in nuclear operations
We need to make NK nukes safer.
2017 October 29
Nukes in East Asia
The New York Times
North Korean nuclear capabilities have
scrambled military calculations in the region. Both South Korea and
Japan are considering the nuclear option, driven by worry that the
United States might hesitate to defend them. Both countries have the
material and expertise to build a weapon, and all that stops them is
the political risk.
South Korea, president Moon Jae-in opposes nuclear weapons but his
his view is increasingly a minority one. South Korea has a huge
stockpile of spent fuel from which it can extract plutonium, enough
for thousands of bombs, and has a fleet of advanced missiles for
conventional warheads. Many South Koreans say a homegrown nuclear
deterrent could force North Korea back to the bargaining table, but
others say Seoul should ask Washington to redeploy tactical nukes.
In Japan, prime minister Shinzo Abe has campaigned
for a military buildup against the NK threat. Japan has a stockpile
of nuclear material for up to 6,000 weapons and has long-range
missile technology, but would need time to develop communications
and control systems. Nuclear weapons would not be prohibited under
the Japanese Constitution if maintained only for self-defense.
2017 October 28
der Zweite Weltkrieg
Von Michael Salewski
Professor Salewski ist es gelungen, eine
autoritative und detailreiche Geschichte des zweiten Weltkrieges —
die allerdings eher für schon ziemlich versierte Leser geeignet wäre
— innerhalb einer überschaubaren Band zu veröffentlichen.
Voraussetzungen für den Leser sind ..
als PDF (1 S.)
2017 October 27
On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his
95 theses decrying the practices of the Roman Catholic church to the
door of the castle church in Wittenberg. This kicked off what became
the Protestant Reformation.
Luther opened the intellectual
floodgates, pitting Protestantism against Catholic dogma. The
Enlightenment took root in the northern European countries that
embraced Lutheran ideas, while the south languished under the
The Reformation was born of Luther's
conviction that the established church had left the path of true
belief. It practised nepotism, bewitched believers by intoning in
Latin, and raised funds by selling indulgences.
convinced that salvation could be granted by God alone, without
priestly intervention. He spoke of a priesthood of all believers,
and encouraged every man to read the Bible for himself. They began
to read God's other book — the book of nature — for themselves too.
Nicolaus Copernicus unveiled Heliocentric cosmology in 1543. He
was a Catholic canon who dedicated his book to Pope Paul III. Luther
had a low opinion of Copernicus and said it was hubris and blasphemy
to suppose that one could decode God’s handiwork.
and Catholic religious leaders were more interested in maintaining
worldly power and authority than in fundamental conflicts between
reason and belief. Any differences on natural philosophy were
relatively trivial. Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton shared a belief
in a universe created by a consistent God who decreed its laws.
Base editing is a new way to
edit single letters in DNA or RNA.
The human genome contains
six billion DNA letters, or chemical bases A, C, G, T. These letters
pair off, A with T and C with G. The molecular scalpel CRISPR-Cas9
can edit or delete genes, but base editing lets a user change a
single letter at a time without breaking the double helix.
Researchers modified CRISPR to work on a single base by rearranging
the atoms in an A to resemble a G. The cell then fixed the other DNA
strand to complete the switch, turning an A-T base pair into a G‑C
one. The user can rewrite errors in the genetic code instead of
cutting and replacing whole chunks of DNA.
used base editing to correct a point mutation that causes hereditary
hemochromatosis. They also used the base editor in human cells to
induce a mutation that suppresses sickle-cell anemia. In both cases,
they detected virtually no off-target effects.
has a broad set of therapeutic applications.
2017 October 26
The House of Saud
For decades in Saudi Arabia, the royal
family has promised but not delivered. This may be changing.
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman says the Iranian revolution
triggered copycat religious regimes across the region and now is the
time to change: "We are simply reverting to what we followed — a
moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. Seventy percent
of Saudis are younger than 30. Honestly, we won't waste 30 years of
our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and
It seems Prince Mohammed and the royal
establishment are serious. With low oil prices and an undiversified
economy, the regime can no longer sustain the current system. In the
past, the rulers thought only of preserving their own power by
giving subsidies to citizens and concessions to the religious
Prince Mohammed has always been big on social
transformation. A senior Saudi royal figure: "This is about giving
kids a social life. Entertainment needs to be an option for them.
They are bored and resentful. A woman needs to be able to drive
herself to work. Without that we are all doomed. Everyone knows that
— except the people in small towns. But they will learn."
Saudi royal family tried to expropriate religion for political
purposes. The result is extremism.
2017 October 25
Mad Dog, Get Trump
Thomas L. Friedman
The four big men in Team Trump are
National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Secretary
of Defense James Mattis.
● McMaster doesn't seem to
have a relationship with Trump that could constrain the Prez.
● Tillerson blew himself up by
starring in a hostage video in which he sang the president's
praises. After Trump tweeted that Tillerson was wasting his time
negotiating with North Korea, Tillerson had to publicly assure us
that he had not been castrated by Trump, which meant he had.
● Kelly squandered his moral
authority by starring in his own White House podium hostage video.
He began well and explained how the president's phone call to the
widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger got garbled. But then he
began to talk like Trump, gratuitously spouting provably false
● Mattis is the last man
standing, the only one who can still put some fear into Trump.
Mad Dog, you need to act. Lead the team in telling Trump that if
he does not change his ways you will all quit. Your job is not to
wipe up Trump's daily filth.
Brexit — Stupidest Thing
Billionaire media mogul and former New York
mayor Michael Bloomberg says Brexit is the "single stupidest thing
any country has ever done" apart from the election of Donald Trump
as US president.
Bloomberg said "it is really hard to
understand why a country that was doing so well wanted to ruin it"
with the Brexit vote.
from page 129 of my novel
"President Newman recently said Brexit was the
dumbest idea since the German invasion of Russia in 1941. It ruined
a flourishing trading relationship, turned a powerful group of
potential friends into bitter enemies, was based on a totally
erroneous and divisive view of the world, was impossible to bring to
a good conclusion without a level of support that was nowhere in
sight, and led to the utter destruction of the state that started
2017 October 24
Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New
Today we, more than 1.3 billion Chinese
people, live in jubilation and dignity. Our land radiates with
enormous dynamism. Our Chinese civilization shines with lasting
splendor and glamor.
Our party shows strong, firm, and
vibrant leadership. Our socialist system demonstrates great strength
and vitality. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation embrace
CPC amends Constitution to include Xi Jinping Thought
Brexit — Three Options
Sir Vince Cable
"This is in fact up to London how this
will end: with a good deal, no deal, or no Brexit."
I welcome Donald Tusk's comments in the European Parliament. No
matter what Theresa May says, there are still three options on the
● No deal
● A deal
● No Brexit
The EU have
confirmed what we have been saying all along: If Brexit looks like a
disaster we can call the whole thing off.
Big Smash Refutes Cosmic Theories
On 17 August, the LIGO collaboration
saw gravitational waves from two big objects spiraling toward each
other. About 1.7 s later, the Fermi satellite detected a GRB. Other
telescopes too observed the collision of two neutron stars about 130
million light years from Earth, now named GW170817.
results show that gravitational waves travel at speed c to within
about 1 in 10^15. This refutes some theories that modify general
relativity (GR) to try to explain dark energy or dark matter. Our
standard model says dark matter makes up about 27% of the universe
and dark energy about 68%.
Modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND)
and a theory called tensor-vector-scalar (TeVeS) gravity have tried
explain the motion of stars and galaxies without dark matter.
Another attempt to modify GR models gravity with a new Galileon
field driving cosmic acceleration in the last few billion years.
These theories are now refuted.
GR includes dark energy as a
cosmological constant. Other simple models, such as quintessence,
introduce a new field that lets vacuum energy density change over
time. These theories survive.
Explaining dark matter and dark
energy may require reconciling GR with quantum mechanics in a theory
of quantum gravity.
The brain is complicated. People with
damage to the frontal lobes suffer personality change. A high
proportion of people in prison for violent offences had a history of
head injury earlier in their lives.
Different areas of the
frontal lobes interact with the limbic system. These interactions
are structured by our genes and experiences. Reason and emotion are
not separate processes in the brain but are deeply intertwined.
Children who suffer extreme emotional and physical deprivation
have smaller brains with less frontal metabolism and connectivity
than children brought up in normal families. They also have larger
amygdala, the parts of the temporal lobes involved in fear and
Human behavior is determined by the mechanics of
our brains. If people behave badly, it is because of the
neurological, genetic, hormonal, and environmental determinants that
shaped their brains, not because of any evil nature.
I do not
choose my feelings. They were formed by my genes and experiences in
early life. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex helps us do the
harder thing which is right.
2017 October 23
How to Stop Brexit
Yes, we can, says Nick Clegg in his readable and
persuasive little book. He recalls the reasons and motives behind
the Leave victory in the 2016 Brexit referendum and marshals the
case for reversing the decision before it is too late. For my part,
I find the case cogent and convincing.
Essentially, Brexit is
far more complicated and damaging than voters ever imagined when
they made their decision last year. Misled by a shameless and
mendacious propaganda campaign, many simply did what came naturally
and voted out of a vague sense of national pride. Most of them had
no clue about the economic and political complications that make
Brexit, in any rational assessment, one of the worst policy
decisions ever made in the British Isles.
Nick Clegg was
punished already in 2015 for his unfortunate coalition with the
Conservatives in government. As a consistent and prominent supporter
of EU membership from the start, he found himself on the losing side
in the 2016 battle for British votes. Admirably, he has stuck to his
guns and refused to drink the Kool-Aid that is currently poisoning
the Conservative government led by Theresa May.
As a former
leader of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg is so mortified by the
electoral demise of his former party that he now advises his readers
to vote Labour, in the vague and poorly founded hope that a
government led by Jeremy Corbyn might find a way to reverse Brexit.
Such a government would be far more likely to keep Britain in the
single market and the customs union, which is a minimum condition
for national prosperity in the foreseeable future, but it would
probably also do great damage on other fronts, so this looks like
The practical advice Clegg urges toward the end
of his tract is sound. British voters who are unhappy at the
prospect of Brexit should join a political party, attend political
meetings, badger their MP, make their views known, and add their
weight to a mass movement to demonstrate that the 2016 referendum decision is no longer valid. Democracy was never intended to mean
one citizen, one vote, one time.
How to Stop Brexit .. by Nick Clegg
2017 October 22
Solar Physics Puzzle
The Sun seems to contain less metal than
expected. Its mass is about 2 billion Yg, most of it H and He, with
about 2% of heavier elements (such as C, N, O, Fe, all of which
astronomers call metals). But about 10 out of the 40 million Yg of
metals our models predict seem to be missing.
We study the Sun using light and sound. Spectroscopists pass solar
photons through prisms, diffracting it into barcodes for the
different elements. Helioseismologists look at sound vibrations on
the solar surface.
Perhaps the metals are not behaving as
expected. Opacity is a measure of how much energy can pass through a
given material. Heavier elements are more opaque than H and He. For
the helioseismology results to hold up, the opacity of the metals in
the Sun needs to be higher.
Atom have a nucleus surrounded by
electrons that orbit at precisely defined energy levels. In the high
temperatures and pressures of the solar core, the energy levels
shift and expand, increasing opacity. We need to observe atoms
interacting with light under high temperatures and pressures.
A team used the Sandia National Labs Z machine to zap a small
iron disk with a flash of energy intense enough to resemble the
solar interior, with temperatures and pressures high enough to
really excite the Fe atoms. The experiments show the hot metal has a
higher opacity than expected.
We can get a deeper
view of the Sun by observing the neutrinos created in its interior.
Some 1% of them are born in core fusion processes involving atoms of
C, N, and O. Observing CNO neutrinos would help us understand the
AI Go Supremacy
A mere 19 months after AlphaGo dethroned the
world's top human Go player, AlphaGo Zero taught itself to beat
AlphaGo. By freeing AI from human knowledge, the breakthrough
removes a primary limit on how smart machines can become.
AlphaGo was taught to play the game using first
supervised learning, where it was fed 100,000 top amateur Go games
and taught to imitate them, and then reinforcement learning, where
it played itself and learned to play more consistently.
AlphaGo Zero began knowing only the rules of Go and played games
against itself. At first it played randomly but soon it improved.
After 3 days and 4.9 million training games, AlphaGo Zero played
AlphaGo and won 100 games to 0.
Photograph: Richard Carson/Reuters
Carter, George HW Bush, George W Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton
Deep From The Heart: The One America Appeal, Texas A&M University
Fundraiser for those affected by recent hurricanes
Geert Vanden Wijngaert
Brussels, October 20
"Ich glaube, dass in der
klar ist, was jetzt noch
zu geschehen hat."
Imperial War Museums
British 3.7" AA
gun and ATS
spotter, England, 1942
see such images and say:
"Ah, the good old days!"
"Xi Jinping sits on top
of the Communist Party,
on top of China, and
China sits on top
Somewhere in Hydra
waves from collision
Deep Space Gateway
Last Brexit To Paradise
Theresa May and her cabinet
are contingency planning for
no deal with Brussels before the
UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
No deal would also mean no
transition period. Hard Brexit
fans cheer the prospect as
only way to break free.
AR Free of
life as we know it
— free of this mortal coil.
A survey found that
42% of respondents think
it is right to leave the EU,
compared with 47% who think
wrong. This is the biggest
gap in favour of remaining
EU since the
Sir Robert Syms
MP for Poole
2017 October 21
Alexis de Tocqueville was a humanist.
The brilliance of people as they are liberated by new ideas makes his case for
democracy. Their gifts are highly individual.
of minds and spirits is a sunlight that falls across the whole
landscape of civilization. Tocqueville stood at a place in the
evolution of culture where there was both a continuous expansion of
literacy and learning and a vast population they had not yet
Impatience with the energy and originality of the
mind is inimical to poetry, eloquence, wit, imagination, and depth
of thought. The impulse is historically expressed as social
engineering. Armies of ideal workers will compete successfully
against whomever for whatever into an endless future, at profound
cost to themselves.
The humanities do not prepare ideal helots. But they are ideal
for preparing imaginative and innovative
contributors to a full and generous national life. Politicians who
attack public higher education as too expensive have made it so for
electoral or ideological reasons.
2017 October 20
David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox
theologian and philosopher. He says God is being, goodness and
truth, and to be is to depend on God. Hart says this view is that of
just about every significant theistic philosopher in human history.
Hart sees the progressive secularization of Western culture as a
long march toward nihilism. Secularism, capitalism and
individualism, consumerism and voluntarism, scientism and
materialism all effect the triumph of the will in human affairs.
Hart has no problem with science, with quantum mechanics and
evolution and ecological degradation and the value of nonhuman
animals. His problem is with the transformation of scientific
inquiry into a metaphysics that denies meaning to any further
questions. He calls scientism a barbarous fundamentalism regarding
knowledge or inquiry.
Hart remains a distinguished public
theologian in a country that no longer recognizes them. We are
living in the twilight of an ancient civilization. Christendom is
gone, and the Christian culture of the West seems destined for slow
2017 October 19
America v China
China, while rising alongside India, has
done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international
China's provocative actions in the South
China Sea directly challenge international law and norms. We will
not shrink when China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring
countries and disadvantages the United States and our friends.
China's model of economic development in smaller countries
saddles those nations with enormous levels of debt. The United
States will collaborate with India to create a region of peace,
stability, and growing prosperity.
America will pursue a free
and open policy across the Indo-Pacific map. India, an important
democracy, pins the western side of that map. Japan, another
important and strong democracy with whom we have strong security
relationships, pins the eastern side. Australia covers the South
Pacific, and America defines the region at its eastern edge.
America will never have the same relationship with non-democratic
China that we can have with a major democracy.
Brexit — Expect No Deal
In a letter organized by the Leave Means
Leave campaign, former UK cabinet ministers Owen Paterson, Lord
Lawson, John Redwood, and Peter Lilley call on Theresa May to walk away
from Brexit talks with no deal if the EU refuses to discuss trade.
German parliament CDU/CSU group vice chair Michael Fuchs
confirmed that money was the major sticking point in the
negotiations: "A figure of .. between €100 billion and maybe €60
billion should be the right point .. €20 billion is definitely not
UK immigration minister Brandon Lewis: "We do value
and we want EU citizens to stay .. EU citizens have the right to
continue to stay in the United Kingdom .. British citizens have that
reciprocal right when they are living abroad in Europe as well."
The Trump Doctrine
Thomas L. Friedman
The Trump Doctrine is very simple:
"Obama built it. I broke it. You fix it."
Trump wants to do
too much at once without any real preparation or planning. He makes
big decisions without consulting experts and without connecting the
● Pulls out of the nuclear deal with Iran but needs a
nuclear deal with North Korea
● Needs to stabilize Iraq, Syria, and
Afghanistan but gives up on help from Iran
● Wants to end the trade
imbalance with China but tears up the TPP trade deal
● Pulls out of
the Paris climate accord and loses out on the green energy market
Restricts funding for birth control yet seeks to reduce the influx
None of these dots connect. Trump has not
thought this through.
AR How long
must we suffer the Trump—Brexit fallout from ignorant, stubborn
voters in the US-UK world?
2017 October 18
Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately
Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success
of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era
China will see the basic realization of
socialist modernization by 2035 after 15 years of hard work.
1 From 2020 to 2035, the CPC will build
on the foundation created by the moderately prosperous society with
a further 15 years of hard work to see that socialist modernization
is basically realized.
2035 to 2050, the CPC will, building on having basically achieved
modernization, work hard for a further 15 years and develop China
into a great modern socialist country.
By mid-century, the
following goals will have been met:
— New heights reached in
every dimension of material, political, cultural and ethical,
social, and ecological advancement
— Modernization of China's
system and capacity for governance
— China a global leader in
terms of overall national strength and international influence
Common prosperity for everyone
— Chinese people happier, safer,
The Chinese nation will become a proud and
active member of the community of nations.
Brexit — Saboteurs
As the bleakness of the Brexit dilemma
becomes more apparent, the search for scapegoats begins. Brexiteers
target the EU but they are now also rounding on the enemy within:
the British people and institutions they accuse of undermining
The search for saboteurs gives off a whiff of
desperation and defeat. Framing the issue as the people versus the
elite backfires — many prominent Leavers are members of the British
elite. Roughly half the country still thinks Brexit is a mistake.
Brexit — Hypocrisy
For decades, politicians and commentators
in Britain ignored, misrepresented, or sneered at the European
project. Now the UK is on its way out, people are suddenly waving EU
Many of those now fighting for continued membership of
the single market and customs union seem unable to shed a
fundamentally Eurosceptic perspective.
and media have misrepresented and mocked Europe for decades. Few
remainers ever made an unconditionally positive case for the EU in
public. Hardly anyone seriously challenged the myths and
misconceptions that dominate the British debate.
Maybe the EU
is flawed, imperfect, in need of reform. The UK is imperfect too.
Brexit — Verdict
The OECD verdict:
— The UK growth rate
will fall to 1% next year
— A disorderly exit from the EU in 2019
would hurt trade and reduce growth
— A reversal of the Brexit
decision would have a significant positive impact on UK growth
Low productivity and poor export performance leave the UK too weak
to prosper outside the EU.
2017 October 17
Two Neutron Stars Collide
The New York Times
"It's the greatest fireworks show in
LIGO executive director David Reitze
can't think of a similar situation in the field of science in my
lifetime, where a single event provides so many staggering insights
about our universe."
LIGO Scientific Collaboration member Daniel
"Joy for all."
LIGO Scientific Collaboration
spokesman David Shoemaker
Astronomers have seen and heard a
pair of neutron stars collide, giving them their first view of how
the gold and other heavy metals in the universe were created. Such
collisions spew out gamma rays, X‑rays, and radio waves in what
astrophysicist Brian David Metzger in 2010 called a kilonova.
On August 17, a LIGO detector recorded a signal and sent out an
alert. Transformed into sound, the signal was a 100 s chirp ending
in a sudden whoop to 1 kHz. Meanwhile, the Fermi Space Telescope
recorded a brief burst of gamma rays 2 s after the LIGO chirp and
sent out its own alert. The GRB lasted about 2 s. The signals told a tale of a pair of neutron stars spiraling around each
The kilonova fireball showed up as a new bluish
pinprick of light in the outer regions of NGC 4993, a galaxy about
130 million light years away. The merging neutron stars were
probably relics of massive stars that had died in supernova
explosions some 11 billion years ago. These neutron stars were about
1.1 and 1.6 times as massive as the sun.
As they approached
each other, orbiting a thousand times a second, tidal forces bulged
their surfaces outward. Their guts were ejected and formed a fat
doughnut around them.
At the moment they touched, a shock
wave squeezed more stuff out of their polar regions, but the
doughnut and extreme magnetic fields confined the material into a
pair of fast jets emitting gamma rays. As the jets slowed down, they
became visible in X-rays and then radio waves.
The big splat
poured out neutrons into space, where they transmuted surrounding
atoms into heavy elements. The radioactivity of these elements kept
the fireball hot. Over a few days, an amount of gold up to 100 times
the mass of the Earth may have been blown into space.
discovery filled fills the gap in our story of how the elements were
cooked up from primordial H and He. Stars and supernovas can cook
the elements up to Fe, but heavier elements need a different
A blizzard of papers is being
published — one in The Physical Review Letters has some 3,500
LIGO found it first, on 17 August, in the
constellation Hydra. Gravitational waves and a burst of gamma
radiation came from a collision between two neutron stars.
It marks the first proof that neutron star mergers emit gamma
ray bursts, the first sighting of heavy elements being formed, and
the first measurement of universal expansion using gravitational
The collision was observed in wavelengths across the
EM spectrum from radio to gamma rays. Images from the Hubble Space
Telescope show us the resulting cloud of hot plasma and gas.
The gravitational waves produced in this collision also revealed
how fast the universe is expanding. The waves confirm previous
We now know we have been witnessing neutron
star mergers for as long as we have observed short gamma ray bursts.
LIGO will see many more.
2017 October 16
We will return American astronauts to the
Moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build
the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond. The
Moon will be a stepping stone, a training ground, a venue to
strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we
refocus America's space program toward human space exploration.
Neel V. Patel
NASA already has plans to go to the Moon.
The first of a series of manned missions to lunar orbit will launch
in 2022. But the cost of maintaining and operating a lunar base
would be astronomical.
NASA aims to develop the Deep Space
Gateway, a crewed space station deployed between the Earth and the
Moon as a staging point for deep space missions. It will be up above
the lunar gravity well. The lunar surface is an unnecessary detour
if the aim is to go to Mars.
All crewed missions divert funding from scientifically more
productive robot missions. Human space exploration is best
accomplished when the robot support systems are mature. Otherwise
the first space tragedy will set back progress for decades.
The Brexit right has no plan beyond a desire
to turn Britain into a Randian dystopia where regulations vanish and
the state withers. It has no policy beyond a nostalgic hope that
Britain will sail across the wide blue oceans and conquer new
markets as our imperial ancestors conquered them before. This is
religion, not politics.
The Bright wingnuts have no allies,
only enemies. Many of them have been fighting their opponents in the
Tory party for 30 years. The wounds are too deep, the scars are too
thick, for them to admit now the other side may have a point.
Beyond the desire to create an isolated state in the Atlantic,
where welfare and regulations are slashed and climate change denied,
is a more primal impulse. They cannot concede an inch to enemies.
Compromise, even a compromise with reality, feels like a betrayal.
But as propagandists the Brexiteers are anything but stupid.
They have been the most brilliantly successful manipulators of
public opinion in modern British history. Despite the collapse in
the pound and living standards, despite the descent of the
negotiations into the mire, not one prominent supporter of Brexit
has admitted to the smallest doubt.
Battle of Brexit
The outcome of the UK general election in June
has changed everything. When Theresa May first said she intended to
withdraw the UK from the EU single market and customs union, she
also said she wanted to keep strategic sectors of the UK economy
inside the single market and customs union. Britain would have its
cake and eat it.
May put together her approach without much
input from her cabinet or British business. Her fall has blown open
the politics of Brexit within her cabinet. The contradictions have
been exposed as rival factions fight for supremacy.
cabinet faction led by Philip Hammond wants to salvage as much as
possible of UK trading ties with the EU. Boris Johnson leads the
cabinet faction agitating for a hard Brexit. The divisions make it
unlikely that the cabinet can reach agreement.
the outcome of the June 2016 referendum is the will of the people.
But public opinion is unstable. If the polling numbers move against
Brexit, the political class will surely take note and abandon the
whole disastrous project.
A Great American Novel
The idea that rational men are not in charge of
running the universe recurs through the 29 parts of the 880 pages of
4321. Years in the making, Paul Auster's 17th novel appeared just as
the author turned 70. It is both a panorama of American life between
1947 and 1971 and a vastly magnified quartet, in which the same
smart kid, Archie Ferguson from New Jersey, grows up in four
different ways, with four separate destinies.
Grandson of a
penniless migrant whose stumbling Yiddish replies at Ellis Island
("Ikh hob fargessen") turn him, by chance, into Ichabod Ferguson,
Archie enters the world in March 1947, a month after his creator.
After this prologue, the four versions of Ferguson are woven into a
Bildungsroman that stretches from infancy to early adulthood.
The parallel Fergusons grow up in the same, shared time. Their
paths never stray far from plausibility for a bright Jewish boy in
the Newark suburbs. Auster makes them writers in assorted genres, to
scatter shards of autobiography among his parallel worlds. Each
Ferguson learns that reason governs neither the state nor the heart.
4321 by Paul Auster
2017 October 15
Beijing is preparing for the 19th national congress
of the Communist Party of China in the Great Hall of the People on
Tiananmen Square, starting Wednesday.
Xi Jinping, 64, is sure
to continue as party general secretary and national president. The
congress is a further opportunity for him to consolidate his power.
Last year the party added Core Leader to his other titles. This
year the congress may celebrate Xi Jinping Thought — an honour
previously reserved for Mao Zedong.
Xi aims to preside over
the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. This China dream is
hugely popular: 92% of citizens say China is on the right track.
Trump Cuts Health Care
Amy Davidson Sorkin
President Donald Trump staged a
signing ceremony for an executive order designed to push people
into junk insurance plans. He said he will withhold the subsidies
that the government currently pays insurance companies. Both moves
recklessly target vulnerable Americans.
Trump said he
defunded the subsidies because paying them went against the will of
Congress. In effect, Congress had promised the money but now wants
the right to withhold it on a regular basis. This is something any
congressional majority interested in avoiding chaos in the insurance
markets could have fixed.
The false stories congressional
Republicans drew of Obamacare fed partisan demands for Trump to
savage it. The Republican party made a destructive promise that
Trump has been eager to keep. Party leaders were quick with their
The Trump administration has rewritten rules to
let plans omit birth control. It has cut programs that help people
sign up for Obamacare and hidden information about affordable plans.
At the signing ceremony, Trump said: "I'm only signing it because it
Donald Trump's decision to go it alone with
rapid fire announcements on healthcare and Iran reflects his boiling
frustration with the limits of presidential power.
Chris Murphy: "Trump's decision to stop ACA payments is nuclear
grade bananas, a temper tantrum that sets the entire health system
Trump's threat to terminate the Iran deal puts him
at odds with secretary of state Rex Tillerson and defense secretary
White House chief of staff John Kelly: "The
Congress has been frustrating to him .. in his view, the solutions
Replika is a chat bot that gradually moulds its traits and style
of speech around each user so as to win trust. It is just one of a
host of electronic angels and demons coders are building for us.
This technology poses new risks for our freedom and dignity.
We need to decide what is
acceptable, before it is decided for us. Imagine yourself as a cloud
of data moving through the world. Every time you do anything, you
shed more data that can be sucked up and used to understand what
makes you tick.
These tools will undermine what it means to
be an individual. Corporations will use their new powers to
manipulate our psychology for their own gain. In a world where
machines can predict and sculpt our deepest desires, free will is
Cambridge Analytica used AI to help elect
Donald Trump. Members of the Quantified Self movement log every
aspect of their lives with fitness trackers, smartphone sensors, and
other widgets. Replika will wake up on millions of devices next
2017 October 14
The Iranian dictatorship .. remains the
world's leading state sponsor of terrorism .. It develops, deploys,
and proliferates missiles .. It harasses American ships .. It
imprisons Americans .. And it launches cyberattacks ..
Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the
United Nations Security Council sought, over many years, to stop
Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong
But the previous administration lifted
these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse
of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear
deal with Iran. ..
Iran is not living up to the spirit of the
deal. So today .. I am announcing a new strategy ..
1 We will work with our allies to
counter the regime's destabilizing activity and support for
terrorist proxies in the region.
We will place additional sanctions on the regime to block their
financing of terror.
3 We will
address the regime's proliferation of missiles and weapons that
threaten its neighbors, global trade, and freedom of navigation.
4 We will deny the regime all paths
to a nuclear weapon.
We cannot afford .. to dismantle a
nuclear agreement that is working and delivering .. Iran is
implementing all its nuclear-related commitments .. There have been
no violations of any of the commitments included in the agreement.
The international community .. has clearly indicated that the
deal is and will continue to be in place. The European Union
continues to fully support the Iran nuclear deal, and .. is
committed to preserve it, to the benefit of all, including the
2017 October 13
Trump Can Nuke Alone
The New York Times
Does President Trump understand, and
can he responsibly manage, the most destructive nuclear arsenal on
He has threatened to totally destroy North Korea. He
has reportedly pressed for a massive buildup in the American nuclear
arsenal. And soon he will decide for or against the Iran nuclear
Senator Bob Corker trusts Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis,
and John Kelly to help "separate our country from chaos" — a searing
indictment from a respected voice on national security issues.
Congress is considering legislation to bar the president from
launching a first nuclear strike without a declaration of war by
Congress. Today he could unleash a nuclear war within minutes, by
his word alone.
How Many Nukes?
When President Trump was shown a graph
tracking the dramatic reduction in American and Russian nuclear
weapons over recent decades, he pointed to the peak year 1969, when
America had 32,000 nuclear weapons, and said he wanted that many
Officials explained that the roughly 4,000 weapons
in the current US strategic arsenal are better able to carry out
their missions than the much larger force half a century ago. As
other national security issues were brought up, Pentagon officials
were rattled by his lack of understanding on all fronts.
Trump is not interested in learning. His idolatry of military
officers is well known, but less noted is his idolatry of big guns
for their own sake. He wants military parades as a show of strength.
He told his aides he wanted 32,000 nuclear weapons because that was
the largest number of nuclear weapons a president ever had.
Forget about the budget or why we need so many nuclear weapons.
And forget IQ — America's top diplomat called Trump a fucking moron.
Brexit — Deadlock
Michel Barnier: "Here we are again. The same
two people." Then he switched to French. He reiterated the three
things on which there was no real progress. Citizens rights.
Northern Ireland. The financial settlement. He tried to offer a
glimmer of hope: "Decisive progress is possible within two months."
The last time someone had said "It will be all over by Christmas"
was in 1914.
Ein harter Brexit ohne Austrittsabkommen wird immer wahrscheinlicher
AR Soon time to pack
2017 October 12
Ludwig Wittgenstein is seen as the model of a
great philosopher. He is obscure and intense, severe and mystical,
charismatic and strange, driven and tragic, with his difficulty
bound up with his character and his life. Wittgenstein saw
philosophy not just as a vocation, but as a way of life.
in 1889, Wittgenstein came from a wealthy but dysfunctional Viennese
family. He began as an engineer and ended as a fellow in philosophy
at Cambridge. He published only one book in his lifetime, the
Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus (1921). He left
manuscripts and notes later published in various forms. The central work
is the posthumous Philosophical Investigations (1953).
Tractatus, Wittgenstein asked what must be the case if we are able
to have true and false thoughts of the world. His answer was that
the world, language, and thought must share a common logical form.
But later he came to abandon and replace much
of this conception.
In the Philosophical Investigations,
Wittgenstein aims to wean us from the idea of intrinsically
representational and meaningful psychological states or processes.
Because we think language is fundamentally about naming things, we
think that psychological concepts must be names of things in an
inner space, so language is really private.
meaning only gets going in and through the shared practices and
interactions of living beings and is only visible in their lives and
activity. In the beginning is not the word but the deed. Just as
gold does not explain the value of money, thoughts do not explain
the meaning of words. We do not mirror reality. We are enmeshed in
„Das Volk ist derjenige Teil des Staates,
nicht weiß, was er will.“
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Government by the worst
people among us, or
the most inept kind
having more for
public services, Brexit Britain
will have to
spend tens of
billions it doesn't have on
new quangos —
Guide To Presidential Etiquette
If you are the POTUS, you may:
● Mock a foreign leader with
a demeaning nickname and
threaten his country with
AfD is the German UKIP,
another tribal atavism:
madness of Brexit;
AfD can do worse
If President Trump refuses to
certify that Iran is complying
with the nuclear deal he will
be making his most feckless
foreign policy decision yet
"Theresa May can restore
some of her credibility by
Boris Johnson in
charge of Brexit."
AR That would add
to the proceedings!
Not quite for everyone
"Nobody has yet said they
disagree with government
Boris is doing what
Boris has always done, adding
to the gaiety of
UK foreign secretary
Boris Johnson recited part of a
colonialist poem in front of
dignitaries while on an official
visit to Myanmar in
In the Shwedagon Pagoda, the
most sacred Buddhist
Yangon, he started reciting
The Road to Mandalay
by Rudyard Kipling.
The UK ambassador to Myanmar
before he got to:
Bloomin' idol made o' mud
Wot they called the
Great Gawd Budd
2017 October 11
A German Prophet
Götz Kubitschek, a tall black-clad figure
with a well-trimmed goatee and the upright posture of a military
officer, is 47 and lives in a village in eastern Germany. He calls
himself a conservative, battling to preserve German identity, which
he says is threatened by immigration and the alienating effects of
modernity. He has warned of the looming demise of the German Volk
and has connections to some of the most radical AfD politicians.
European nationalists promote a kind of New Right rainbow
coalition, in which sovereign states steadfastly maintain their
ethnic and cultural identities within a larger western ideal. New
Right thinkers dream of establishing a common front that would unite
opponents of liberalism on both extremes of the political spectrum.
They say German self-hatred must be overcome for Germany to be great
Kubitschek says that in a time of great peril a leader
must act beyond the law. He says the consequences of a revolt are
less troubling than the threat of what would happen if the Volk
lacked the courage to defend itself from cultural erosion. Recently
Finis Germania, a book by Rolf Peter Sieferle.
Finis Germania — blog 2017 July 12
Brexit — Update
UK prime minister Theresa May, who voted
Remain in the 2016 referendum, was asked how she would vote in a new
referendum: "What I did last time around was I looked at everything
and came to a judgment and I'd do exactly the same this time
European Council president Donald Tusk: "If it turns
out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that sufficient
progress hasn't been reached, then together with our UK friends we
will have to think about where we are heading."
Philip Hammond: "The government and the Treasury are prepared. We
are planning for every outcome."
We can still turn HMS Britannia around and escape the Brexit
2017 October 10
We are experiencing kakistocracy in
America. The Constitution prohibits anything of value other than a
salary going to a president from the federal government or the
states. Trump pushed for more favorable property taxes. Ivanka Trump
and Jared Kushner have sought to leverage their White House status
for business gain. A string of Trump cabinet members and White House
staffers have been caught spending staggering sums of taxpayer
dollars to charter jets.
World stability is endangered by the
embarrassing triangle involving secretary of state Rex Tillerson,
secretary of defense James Mattis, and Trump. Within the last week,
Trump undercut Tillerson via tweet, taking diplomatic talks with
North Korea off the table while his secretary of state was in China.
Then Tillerson reportedly called the president a moron. Mattis then
told the Senate that America should continue to certify the Iran
nuclear deal, after which the president undercut his credibility by
decertifying the deal.
Donald Trump campaigned by promising
to run government like a business. Ot the 602 key policy positions
in the executive requiring Senate confirmation, only 142 have been
filled and 289 have not even had a nominee chosen. The record here
is starkly worse than under the previous four presidents.
John Kelly left his position at Homeland Security for the White
House in July. The vacancy he left remains. There are still no
nominees for undersecretary for national protection, undersecretary
for science and technology, or assistant secretaries for policy or
immigration. The same pattern holds true for almost every other
cabinet department or key agency.
The record of the Trump
administration in its first nine months is abysmal. Not one of the
big goals set by the president or majority congressional leaders has
been achieved. The administration is inept, venal, and reckless.
2017 Nobel Prize in Economics
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Richard H. Thaler has
incorporated psychologically realistic assumptions into analyses of
economic decision making. He has shown how limited rationality,
social preferences, and lack of self-control systematically affect
individual decisions as well as market outcomes.
● Limited rationality
— Thaler developed the theory of mental accounting, explaining how
people simplify financial decision making by creating separate
accounts in their minds, and showed how aversion to losses can
explain the endowment effect.
● Social preferences
— Thaler showed how consumers may stop firms from raising prices in
periods of high demand, but not in times of rising costs, and
devised a tool to measure attitudes to fairness in different groups
of people around the world.
● Lack of self-control
— Thaler analyzed self-control problems using a planner-doer model
to describe the internal tension between long-term planning and
short-term doing, and demonstrated how nudging may help people
exercise better self-control.
Thaler has built a bridge
between the economic and psychological analyses of individual
decision making. Behavioural economics has had a profound impact on
many areas of economic research and policy.
Living With God
Saint Augustine wrote his Confessions in
about 397 CE, a few years after he had become a Christian bishop. In
the first nine books, Augustine describes his life from his birth to
his conversion in Milan and the death of his mother. In books 10 and
11, he includes philosophical thoughts on the nature of memory and
time. In the last two books, Augustine plunges into the Hebrew
In her new translation, Sarah Ruden renames God
as a master. This change brings Augustine to life. In relation to
God, Augustine experiences all the ups and downs of a household
slave in relation to his master. Augustine changes in his relation
to God, over the years, from slave to repentant son to lover. Ruden
conveys a living sense of the being before whom we find him
transfixed in prayer.
Augustine uses medical terminology in
books 6 and 7 to describe the last stages of his conversion.
Here the crack of the whip is silent. Nor does truth dawn suddenly
for him in the garish manner of conventional conversion narratives.
Instead, we enter the gentle light of a Roman sickroom, as God, the
supremely tender doctor, tiptoes in to place his hand on Augustine.
Augustine has a gift for miniaturizing sin. Examining his
motives for robbing a pear tree, he isolates the possibility that he
had acted gratuitously, simply to show that he could do whatever he
wished. By the time the bishop approached his sexual temptations, he
looks at his sins as if through the diminishing end of a telescope.
They are disturbing because they are so small but so tenacious.
2017 October 9
Trump: "Maybe it's the calm before the storm."
Reporter: "What storm Mr President?"
Trump: "You'll find out."
The New York Times
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
chair Republican Senator Bob Corker says President Trump is treating
his office like a reality show, with reckless threats toward other
countries that could lead to World War III: "He concerns me. He would
have to concern anyone who cares about our nation .. the White House
has become an adult day care center .. every single day at the White
House, it's a situation of trying to contain him."
could play a key role if Trump follows through on his threat to
decertify the Iran nuclear deal. On Trump: "I know .. in several
instances, he's hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were
underway by tweeting things out .. the vast majority of our caucus
understands .. the volatility that we're dealing with and the
tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep
him in the middle of the road."
Corker, 65, is a former mayor
of Chattanooga who became wealthy in construction. He says the
commander in chief is not fully aware of the power of his office: "I
don't think he appreciates that when the president of the United
States speaks and says the things that he does, the impact that it
has around the world."
New cochlear implants will let users stream
audio directly from their iPhone into their cochlear nerve. Apple
and Cochlear have made the connectivity available for any hearing
implants that use the Nucleus 7 sound processor. The audio signal is
highly compressed, but the technology is likely to be adopted by
consumer audio devices. Technology giants are betting heavily on
audio interfaces becoming the norm in the future. We will wear
transparent ear buds that let us hear the world around us while also
working online through our phone.
2017 October 8
A German Patriot
Klaus Riedelsdorf is a German patriot. He
wants his country back. Islam is an ideology, he says, and an
Islamic takeover of Germany is the greatest danger the country has
faced since the Cold War.
He cites three fiascos: the euro
fiasco, where Germany ended up paying to bail out other countries;
the environment fiasco, where Germany renounced nuclear power; and
the refugee fiasco, where Angela Merkel has let in a million-strong
"army with stones" since 2015.
Riedelsdorf is a member of the AfD party. He is happy with equal
rights for gays and women, but he asks whether what homosexuals do
with each other really needs to be taught in German schools or
whether gender-neutral neologisms really need to be adopted to
Riedelsdorf on political correctness: "It
makes no sense to force people to think this or that when they don't
believe it. They will do the opposite as soon as they can."
On WW2: "My grandfather and three of my father's brothers fought in
the war. They did what they were told to do, as any soldier in the
world would. They tried to be honorable. The war was a crime, we
know that, but soldiers did not commit the crimes. That was the SS.
We need a differentiated view of the Third Reich."
AR I can understand and even sympathize
with his views — except that patriotism is nationalism and
nationalism is a tribal atavism that must be damped if not squashed
in the sort of globalized world that I see as our only hope in the
2017 October 7
Jeremy Corbyn: "The next Labour government
will transform Britain by genuinely putting power in the hands of
Socialism has come in three main varieties:
autocratic, populist, and social democratic. Autocratic socialism
was a catastrophe. Populist socialism has never worked economically.
Social democracy has been a triumph.
democrats understand that any successful program for a party in
— avoid the lure of magical thinking on budget
constraints for government
— recognise the crucial role of
incentives in shaping human behaviour
— thoroughly internalise
the importance of a stable institutional framework
that the private sector plays a leading role in the economy
Populist socialism is undisciplined on public finances, unconcerned
about incentives, contemptuous of property rights, hostile to the
private sector, and antagonistic to the constraining institutions.
AR People power means putting
pleasure now over pain later.
Deep Tory Problems
Manchester was a theatre of delusion for the Conservative party.
Hollowed out intellectually, the party has retreated to the comfort
zone of obsession with Europe. The Eurosceptics have released a
toxin into their party which is poisoning their politics.
Tory party has the leader it deserves. The conservatism of Theresa
May consists of some strong ideas weakly held and is reluctantly
liberal on social issues, prone to protectionism in economics, and
patriotic in character.
The Tory party contains dissent. Few
Tory leaders were ever ideologues. A party that pursued a policy of
imperial protection before switching to the advocacy of free trade
without ceasing to be the Conservatives was never defined by either.
Passion on Europe has turned the party into a pressure group.
Europe is their only issue and it is shattering them. Some of them
regard Boris Johnson as their saviour, forgetting that he and his
kind are to blame for their move to the fringe.
AR My published comment under this
article drew by far the most recommendations, so far as I can see,
among many hundreds of comments: "Brexit is an expression of an
unwanted disease. Most British voters who suffered from it didn't
even realise its virulence. They thought detesting foreigners — who
begin at Calais — was a patriotic eccentricity. In fact that
detestation is toxic mind rot."
2017 October 6
I grew up surrounded by books and Oxford was
always on my radar. The Rhodes scholarship financed my graduate work
at Oxford from 2012 to 2014. It was really chance that led me to
take the All Souls exam and win a fellowship.
Must Fall campaign began in South Africa and came to Oxford in 2015.
It has sparked debate about Oxford and its
institutions. The scholarship is a kind of brand and scholars are
quite sensitive to its reputation.
I knew little about Cecil
Rhodes when I won the scholarship. I backed the campaign partly
because of its history and partly because I knew some of the black
students who had launched the campaign and wanted to help.
The movement aims to decolonialize curricula, to help correct the
underrepresentation of black students and academics, and to relocate
the statue of Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes House is not happy with its
methods and language but I hope things will change.
I see no
contradiction between accepting the scholarship and criticizing the
man who financed it. On the contrary, I think it my duty to be aware
of the crimes and contribute to their reparation. The statue should
be put in a museum.
● Rhodes Scholarships
go back to 1902 and colonial capitalist Cecil Rhodes. They are
awarded only to members of certain nations. The Rhodes Trust aims
"to identify and develop leaders" and has funded around 8,000
scholars so far.
● All Souls College
in Oxford was founded in 1438 and contains only fellows. Its
entrance exam for Oxford students is billed as the hardest in the
world: only 2 per year win a generously funded 7-year fellowship.
AR At Oxford, between my third and
fourth degrees, I felt tempted by the All Souls exam — but somehow
never sat it.
2017 October 5
Three men won the Nobel Prize for Physics for
their discovery of gravitational waves. But what of the other
scientists who contributed to the LIGO project?
when Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, and physiology
or medicine, critics note that they are an absurd and anachronistic
way of recognizing scientists for their work.
Nobels have drawn controversy since their inception. Beyond who
should have received the prize and who should not, the problem is
that the Nobels reward three individuals at most for each of the
scientific prizes in any given year. And modern science is a team
The price of reform is low, and the cost of avoiding
it is high. The Nobels feed the pernicious myth of the lone genius.
They reinforce a reward system in science in which the winner takes
all, and the contributions of the many are neglected by
disproportionate attention to the contributions of a few.
in many cases, the prizes are about who has survived. Nobel Prizes
cannot be awarded posthumously. Women have won just 12 of the 214
prizes in physiology or medicine, just 4 of the 175 prizes in
chemistry, and just 2 of the 204 prizes in physics.
this would matter if Nobels were no big deal. But laureates are
blessed with eternal fame — a problem when some turn to
pseudoscience or worse.
2017 October 4
A Banjaxed Conference
By the end of the Conservative party
conference, Theresa May had suffered so many painful betrayals and
humiliations that she should have ditched her speech. Handed a P45
by a comedian as she coughed it out, she had already spent four days
having to suck up all manner of indignities.
The party seemed
to have called an election by mistake. This conference was an
attempt to contain the fallout, which repeatedly
threatened to spill over into open recrimination. Everywhere you
went, you could hear party members muttering about wanting big
ideas, a big vision.
The average age of Conservative
members is around 70. Perhaps there was the odd clue that this sort
of reckoning was in the post. The endless giveaways to baby boomers.
The pollsters who used to say the only
demographic one needed to pay less attention to than young people
was dead people. The sense among the constituency associations that
the definition of young is under 48.
Neither the Tories nor
Labour — both of which proclaim how useless the other
lot are — seem aware what their failure to pull
comfortably ahead against that kind of adversary says about them. We
might hesitate to characterise them as two equally formidable
adversaries grappling at the Reichenbach Falls. Two drunks fighting
in a puddle feels more like it.
The original article is long and witty — I recommend it.
Gravitational Wave Nobelists
Gravitational waves have earned a Nobel
prize for Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish, and Kip Thorne, the three
leaders of the LIGO/VIRGO collaboration that found the waves in
Half of the $1.1 million prize goes to Weiss. The
remainder is shared between Barish and Thorne. Weiss founds ways
back in the 1970s to cancel out sources of background noise that
could be mistaken for gravitational waves. Thorne joined forces with
Weiss to develop the interferometer. Barish was leader of LIGO and
transformed a small research group of 40 into a major international
collaboration of 1000 scientists.
Weiss: "We know about black
holes and neutron stars, but we hope there are other phenomena we
can see because of the gravitational waves they emit."
AR Thorne co-authored with Charles
Misner and John Wheeler the bible of general relativity:
2017 October 3
Guns In America
Since 1970, more Americans have died
from guns (including suicides, murders and accidents) than the sum
total of all the Americans who died in all the wars in American
history, back to the American Revolution. Every day, some 92
Americans die from guns, and American kids are 14 times as likely to
die from guns as children in other developed countries.
Godfather Of Brexit
A friend says UK foreign secretary Boris
Johnson has reinvented himself as the godfather of Brexit.
cabinet minister: "Boris was in danger of sliding out of view but he
is now back in the game. You get some party activists chuntering
about his disloyalty to Theresa May, but at the same meetings you
get people saying — Good old Boris, I'm glad somebody is saying
BoJo: "It would be foolish to leave the EU
only to remain in orbit in a state of lunar capture."
BoJo Brexit Bombast
Boris Johnson is wrong in his impatience for
a fast Brexit. He is right to sense that delay suits the Remainers.
Once Britain enters a holding pen between in and out, the chances of
BoJo has no positive account of exit because there
is none to be had. The EU does not hold member states back from
external trade or from munificent healthcare spending. BoJo has a
political hunch that exit has to happen at pace or not at all.
No prime minister will dare to rescind the referendum. But
Britain could ease into a limbo in which two years of transition
become more. Transition is the last public service of Theresa May.
2017 October 2
The New York Times
The military exercise
Zapad 2017 showed progress in the Russian ability to conduct
complex, large-scale operations, using drones and other new
technology. It far exceeded in scope and scale what Moscow had said
it would conduct.
Before the exercise, Russia said the drills
would involve fewer than 13,000 troops engaged in a counterterrorism
scenario in Belarus, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, the Baltic
Sea region, and around St. Petersburg. Instead, tens of thousands of
Russian troops in the Arctic and Far East, the Black Sea, near
Ukraine, and in the Abkhazia region of Georgia also joined in.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu: "In effect, these activities
together constituted a single strategic exercise, involving the full
spectrum of Russian and Belarusian military."
Isaac Newton went up to Cambridge in 1661. As
a Fellow of Trinity College and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics
from 1669 onward, Newton was obliged to subscribe to the 39 articles
of the Church of England. Unusually for a fellow at this period, he
refused to take holy orders.
In addition to his public work
as a mathematician and physicist, Newton secretly studied Christian
doctrines. He concluded that the central doctrines of Christianity
were monstrous idolatries and perversions of true religion.
Newton believed he was one of the true believers mentioned in the
book of the Apocalypse, who would be resurrected to rule over
mortals in the Millennium. The Archbishop of Canterbury talked with
him and thought he was mad.
2017 October 1
Conservative Party Conference
Theresa May says the cabinet is united and she will be leader for the long term.
The Russian government meddled in the US presidential election.
Shortly after the election, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg
dismissed as "a pretty crazy idea" the notion that fake news might
have won it for Trump. Last week he said he regretted those words.
Russian trolls with bogus identities bought more than 3,000
Facebook ads. The ads could have been seen by tens of millions of
people. Russians used Facebook Events to organise phoney political
protests in the United States. Twitter was used in a similar way.
It is still too early to conclude that Russian use of social
media decided the election. But we probably can conclude that social
media decided the election. The only indicators that reliably
predicted the election result were Facebook and Twitter. Trump
completely dominated Clinton on both.
Facebook has more than
2 billion users around the world. In America, about two-thirds of
adults are on Facebook. Nearly half get their news from it. The most
powerful media publisher in the history of the world — Citizen Zuck.
Henry Markram aims to understand the
workings of our brains. As our brains think, learn and remember,
they create elaborate but ephemeral structures in at least seven
mathematical dimensions. These transient structures, which appear
and disappear like sandcastles on a beach, could help us understand
how the brain creates our thoughts and feelings.
The Blue Brain Project
was launched in 2005, with the aim of simulating the human brain
inside a computer. In late 2015, the team announced it had recreated
a cylinder of rat brain 0.5 mm wide and 2 mm long, containing 31,000
neurons of more than 200 different types, with some 8 million
connections between them. For Markram, the project director, such
simulations let you see how neurons work together at a level of
detail inaccessible in a real brain. Making sense of the data
involves algebraic topology.
A network of neurons can be
depicted as a graph. A clique is a dense type of graph in which
every neuron is connected to every other neuron. They correspond to
geometrical shapes: 3 neurons in a clique form a 2D triangle, 4 form
a 3D tetrahedron, 5 neurons a 4D structure, and so on. Researchers
see such cliques in real brains but cannot see the direction of
information flow within them. This directionality is clear in a
A team looked for directed cliques in the Blue
Brain data, in which information enters via one neuron, passes
through each of the others and exits via the last. The biologically
inspired network had many times more directed cliques than a
randomly constructed network would, including cliques with up to
8 neurons in 7D cliques — which may increase as the Blue Brain
simulation grows in size.
Neurons that fire together wire
together. In the simulated brain, pairs of neurons connected as part
of a directed clique are more likely to fire together than other
pairs. The bigger the clique a pair of neurons belong to, the more
likely they are to fire together. Simple cliques form first, and
then quickly grow bigger. The stronger the stimulus and the more
synchronized the input received by the neurons, the bigger the
cliques. Once the peak is reached, the structures collapse.
Typically, the process lasts a few tens of milliseconds.
Markram: "When anything happens, the brain builds the most complex
structure that it can. It climbs as high as it possibly can go, and
then it collapses. All stimuli evoke the same stereotypical,
multidimensional sandcastle building and collapsing."
thinks this topological approach could help crack consciousness.
AR Wonderful — this math
fits my picture of consciousness in
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