2022 December 31
Today marks the second anniversary of the end of the Brexit transition period. Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the accession of the UK into the EEC, the predecessor of the EU. A lot has changed since then.
The UK remains deeply split over the wisdom of Brexit. Most Leavers still believe Remainers want to overturn a free and fair democratic vote. Most Remainers believe the referendum was a travesty of democracy.
Most Leavers believe that Remainers regard them as ignorant fools and xenophobes. Most Remainers resent being mocked and ignored by Conservative governments that have made minimal effort to placate them.
Opinion polls show support for Brexit diminishing. The UK government rejected a recent petition demanding that it hold a public inquiry into the impact of Brexit, suspecting a Remainer ploy to embarrass it.
There will be no further Brexit referendum. The UK could not rejoin the EU on the previous terms. The government should set up a commission to find ways to make Brexit work.
AR This is the Labour line. It's a fudge. Brexit is a historic blunder.
Stress exists on a gradient, with four mind states:
Red mind is the state of acute stress
Yellow mind is the state of being constantly stressed
Green mind is when we're pleasantly relaxed
Blue mind is when we access a state of deep rest
Strategies for shifting into a calmer state of mind:
— Don't try to solve problems that haven't yet happened
— Stop frowning
— Making lists of what stresses you can help
— Think of your stress as an asset
— Exercise is like a stress vaccine
— Tell yourself you are better than this stressful situation
— Smell the flowers or look out of the window
— Slow breathing to six breaths a minute
— Being grateful is good for the brain
AR Seems helpful.
A controlled fusion reaction generated more power than was used to kickstart it. The event fuels hope that fusion reactors can give us abundant, clean energy.
Fusion power will be a great example of what astronomer Martin Rees calls cathedral thinking, where multiple generations of coordinated effort are needed to solve a grand challenge.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) was born out of the US nuclear weapons program. It was a way to test thermonuclear bomb design while avoiding banned detonations.
The NIF lasers put out just over 2 MJ of power, but the reaction on December 5 yielded a little over 3 MJ. The lasers needed 300 MJ to run, but fusion power became demonstrably possible.
To deliver commercial power with a design like NIF, you need to more. The demonstration fired once, for a few ns, then took hours to cool. A viable reactor must ignite repeatedly, reliably, and for long periods without maintenance.
When fusion reactors go commercial, the designers will be standing on the shoulders of many thousands of scientists and engineers.
AR The quest for practical fusion power is historic. Achieving it will herald a new age. It will be a huge step forward from the age of fossil fuel power. But we are still a long way from exploiting the full potential of solar power.
2022 December 30
Rabbi Says Leave Russia Now
Moscow's exiled chief rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt resigned and left Russia in July after refusing to back the Russian invasion of Ukraine: "I believe the best option for Russian Jews is to leave."
Russian Jews have been emigrating for 100 years, first to Europe and the Americas and more recently to Israel. Today only about 165,000 Jews remain in the Russian Federation.
Goldschmidt: "There's a section of Russian society called the creacle, the creative class .. and I think it's safe to say a great percentage of those people have left Russia."
Goldschmidt recalls that Volodymyr Zelensky, who made no secret of his Jewishness, was elected president of Ukraine with more 70% of the vote.
AR Bleak outlook for Russia.
I bought it
2022 December 29
The Year in Biology
Our memories are the cornerstone of our identity. Drugs to counter degenerative diseases have only marginal effects. Aggregations of proteins around cells are beginning to look like an almost universal phenomenon in aging tissues. Worsening problems with protein management may be a routine consequence of aging for cells.
Memories form when the neural activity behind experiences strengthens the synaptic connections between the neurons involved. The changes are physical records. We are learning how and where in the brain they reside. Biochemical mechanisms distinguish good memories from bad ones by flagging them with levels of neurotensin.
Even individual cells in developing tissues may carry some records of their ancestral history. These stem cells seem to rely on that stored information when faced deciding how to specialize in response to chemical cues.
Living cells first appeared some 3.8 billion years ago. Replicating molecule evolved into a throng of different replicators. Various molecules coevolved into competing hosts and parasites that rose and fell in dominance. The molecules started working together in an ecosystem. Early metabolism involving complex sets of energetic reactions might have arisen near hydrothermal vents.
A fertilized egg cell grows into an adult human body with upward of 30 trillion specialized cells. Chemical gradients guide cell navigation, but so do patterns of physical tension in surrounding tissues. Mechanical forces inside an embryo also help induce sets of cells to become specific structures.
The brain uses a lot of energy, but evolution has helped it cope with lengthy periods of food deficiency. When mice survive on short rations for weeks on end, their brains start to operate in a low-power mode. But this mode reduces the resolution of their vision by making visual signal processing less precise.
Chemical structures go a long way toward defining the smells we associate with various molecules. The metabolic processes that create molecules in nature also reflect our sense of the smell of the molecules. Neural networks that include metabolic information in their analyses classify smells more like humans do.
Isolated brain tissue in the laboratory can form organoids. A team implanted human brain organoids into newborn laboratory rats. The human cells integrated themselves and took on a role in smell. The transplanted neurons looked healthier than ones growing in isolated organoids.
AR My cut of a nice essay.
JWST image of Neptune
2022 December 28
The Year in Miph
Mathematical structures are interconnected. As we find new connections, the sprawl of subdisciplines shrinks. A deep geometric structure underlies the combinatorial properties of graphs.
We have found the most efficient way to pack spheres in 8D, and it minimizes the energy of a system in a variety of contexts. We also have a general theory of how liquids flow through porous media.
By a certain measure, the primes are the largest example of a primitive set. An infinite number of prime pairs differ by 600 or less, and an infinite number of primes lack a given digit.
Cryptographic protocols are based on the difficulty of various math problems. Secure one-way functions are possible only if a version of Kolmogorov complexity is hard to compute.
We can use quantum entanglement for secret encrypted communications. A fully entangled system would be impossible to describe fully. Systems close to being fully entangled are just as impossible to calculate.
Transformers excel at language processing and image classification. A transformer processes all its input data in parallel. New hypernetworks help us train ANNs fast. Embodied AI can now learn in responsive 3D environments.
JWST data is yielding discoveries about galaxies, stars, and exoplanets. EHT data has given us a photo of the supermassive black hole in the heart of our galaxy. A map of the distribution of galaxy locations shows a cosmic asymmetry.
A quantum gravity experiment ran a wormhole protocol on a quantum computer to show the teleportation of quantum information was dual to information passing through a wormhole in spacetime.
The mass of the W boson may be higher than predicted by the Standard Model. And we may have nailed the origin of high-temperature superconductivity.
AR Thanks to QUANTA
2022 December 27
Taiwan will extend its compulsory military service from 4 months to 12 months amid mounting military tensions with China. The Taiwan defense ministry says 71 Chinese air force jets and drones entered its air defense identification zone within 24 hours on Monday.
President Tsai Ing‑wen: "As long as Taiwan is strong enough, it will be the home of democracy and freedom all over the world, and it will not become a battlefield. Taiwan wants to tell the world that between democracy and dictatorship, we firmly believe in democracy. Between war and peace, we insist on peace. Let us show the courage and determination to protect our homeland and defend democracy."
Taiwan is shifting from a conscript military to a volunteer-dominated professional force. China's growing assertiveness toward the island and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have prompted debate about how to boost defense.
The American Institute in Taiwan welcomed the announcement on conscription reform: "The United States' commitment to Taiwan and steps Taiwan takes to enhance its self-defense capabilities contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region."
UK economy unprepared for invasion
Senior UK government officials say Britain is unprepared for the "catastrophic" economic consequences of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
A conflict in the South China Sea would cripple supply chains and lead to shortages of vital imports. UK industry leaders should think "very hard" about where they source vital goods.
US officials say President Xi Jinping has set a deadline of 2027 to retake Taiwan. Some say China could attack as soon as 2024.
Taiwan makes 65% of the world's semiconductors and almost 90% of the most advanced chips used in telecommunications and computers.
UK imports from China last year totaled £63.6 billion, or 13.3% of all goods imported.
AR China should think hard about this.
2022 December 26
Chinese Maritime Threat
China dominates international shipping. It could choke global trade in a conflict with the West over Taiwan, warns VUB professor Jonathan Holslag in an EU research paper.
Holslag: "Given the impact of the current war in Ukraine, it is crucial for Europe's security and prosperity to critically evaluate this vulnerability."
China is the largest shipbuilder in the world. The Chinese State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) builds about 41% of all ships. China controls almost a third of all maritime trade, including 18% in containers, 12% in crude oil, and 13% in LNG.
Holslag: "China considers maritime power as an important building block of its national power and crucial for its national economic security. China has vast maritime power."
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has a grip on all big state-owned maritime companies, such as CSSC, China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), and China Merchants Group (CMG).
The CPC ensures that all merchant shipping is for dual military and civilian use. Ro‑Ro ferries are designed and used for military exercises and landings. Party commissars "erect an ideological fortress" on every ship.
COSCO party secretary Xu Lirong says China aims to control the entire supply chain including major transportation hubs and channels. COSCO has financial stakes in such European ports as Hamburg, Piraeus, Le Havre, Zeebrugge, and Antwerp.
Holslag compares Western dependency on consumer goods made in China with Chinese addiction to opium supplied by British imperialists.
AR Western strategists lack CPC options.
2022 Christmas Day
Pussy Riot have released a new song: "The music of our anger, indignation, disagreement, a reproachful desperate cry against Putin's bloodthirsty puppets, led by a real cannibal monster, whose place is in the infinity of fierce hellish flames on the bones of the victims of this terrible war."
They call for an embargo on the purchase of Russian oil and gas and the sale of weapons and police ammunition to Russia, the seizure of western bank accounts and property of Russian officials and oligarchs and personal sanctions against them, and an international tribunal to try Putin and everyone responsible for the genocide of the Ukrainian nation.
A Pussy Riot member: "We have a new Hitler in Russia."
AR Amen to that.
2022 Christmas Eve
Monsters of American Capitalism
Capitalism is premised not only on greed but also on laws and norms that contain it. When avarice defines an era, laws and norms are no match for its monsters.
✗ Donald Trump took bogus deductions to reduce his tax liability to zero in 2020. All told, he reported $60 million in losses during his presidency while continuing to pull in big money. Trump is already synonymous with greed and the aggressive violation of laws and norms in pursuit of money and power. But when a US president celebrates these traits, they leach out into society like poison.
✗ Sam Bankman-Fried stands accused by the SEC of using customer money to fund his crypto empire. From the start, contrary to what FTX investors and trading customers were told, he diverted and used FTX customer funds to grow his empire. He may have committed one of the biggest frauds in US history. Yet until recently he was seen as a model for aspiring billionaires.
✗ Elon Musk and his maneuvers at Twitter might cause even the most rabid capitalist to wince. Shares in his other company Tesla are down 64% over the last year as analysts worry about its fate. He's even taking executive talent from Tesla to help him at Twitter. He's less concerned about laws and norms than about imposing his will on others.
These are the three monsters of American capitalism.
AR Three kings ..
2022 December 23
The Trump Committee
The New York Times
The hearings of the House select committee on the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol presented a disturbing account of Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Through these hearings, Congress showed that the best answer to political violence lay in the rule of law, checks and balances, testimony given under oath, and careful bureaucracy.
The hearings made protecting democracy a significant issue in the midterm elections. The sustained attention on Trump's conduct in his final days in office is also valuable.
The Democrats and Republicans who served on the committee captured the attention of Americans who need to know about Trump's role in the events of Jan 6.
US democracy requires Americans to act in good faith. The dangers remain clear and present. Trump is running for president again.
AR Stop him running.
Zelensky in Congress
2022 December 22
'US Aid Is Not Charity'
The New York Times
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivered an emotional wartime appeal to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday night: "Ukraine is alive and kicking. And it gives me good reason to share with you our first joint victory: We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world."
Zelensky pleaded for more military assistance: "We have artillery, yes, thank you. We have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really." The money, he said, was not charity: "It's an investment."
Zelensky ended his speech by delivering an Ukrainian battle flag to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in return handed him a framed American flag.
The American flag in his right hand, Zelensky jabbed his left fist into the air: "We stand, we fight, and we will win because we are united − Ukraine, America, and the entire free world. May God protect our brave troops and citizens. May God forever bless the United States of America. Merry Christmas and a happy, victorious New Year."
President Joe Biden: "We will stay with you for as long as it takes."
Zelensky channels Churchill
Volodymyr Zelensky was in Washington to thank Joe Biden and the American people for their support. The climax was his address to a joint session of Congress.
He stood at the same spot American presidents do when delivering the State of the Union address. "Against all odds and doom-and-gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn't fall − Ukraine is alive and kicking," he said, prompting one of many standing ovations.
Winston Churchill also addressed Congress in the Senate chamber on 26 December 1941. At the end of his speech, the chief justice gave a V for victory sign. A reporter: "The effect was instantaneous, electric. The cheers swelled into a roar."
Cheers turned to roars again for Zelensky when, in a nod to Churchill, he declared: "Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender."
His address delivered, Zelensky walked up the center aisle of the chamber to thunderous cheers, a standing ovation, and eager handshakes.
AR Stirring stuff.
President Putin plans to boost his army: "We have no funding restrictions. The country and the government are providing everything that the army asks for."
He says the Sarmat ICBM (NATO name Satan II) will soon be ready for deployment. Satan II weighs 200 tons, has a range of up to 10 Mm, and carries up to 16 thermonuclear warheads with a total yield of up to 40 megatons.
A slick music video stars rocker Denis Maidanov singing: "From Mother Russia, the Sarmats stare into the distance at the United States."
AR Satanic ..
Zelensky, Bakhmut, Tuesday
2022 Winter Solstice
Zelensky Visits Washington
US president Joe Biden confirms that Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Washington today. In his first foreign visit since the war broke out, Zelensky will go to the White House before addressing a joint session of Congress.
Western prudence risks a Kremlin victory in Ukraine
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan: "We don't know where this is going to end up. What we do know is that it's our job to continue to sustain our military support to Ukraine, so .. they will be in the best position at the negotiating table."
German chancellor Olaf Scholz: "Our goal is that Russia ends its war of aggression and Ukraine defends its integrity."
The United States has given Ukraine about $20 billion in military aid since the war began. It has not supplied aircraft or tanks but will now deliver the Patriot ADS. Germany has sent SP howitzers and AA tanks and will send IRIS‑T systems, but not Leopard tanks.
A stable democracy in Ukraine would be a gain for Europe and a model for Russia.
AR Churchill addressed Congress 81 years ago, when the worst was yet to come.
2022 December 20
Russia and Belarus
Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko has let Moscow use Belarus territory for attacks on Ukraine but says his troops will not join the fighting. More than 90% of Belarusians are opposed to sending their armed forces to Ukraine.
Ukraine says Russia could launch a fresh attack from Belarus as early as next month. The Belarusian army is not powerful enough to sway the conflict, but Ukraine would be forced to redeploy troops, helping Russia.
When Putin and Lukashenko held a joint press conference in Minsk, Lukashenko gestured at Putin: "The two of us are co-aggressors, the most harmful and toxic people on this planet."
Sovereign and independent
Putin is in Belarus to meet Lukashenko.
President Lukashenko: "No one, except us, governs Belarus. We must always proceed from the fact that we are a sovereign state and independent."
President Zelensky: "Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus, is our constant priority. We are preparing for all possible defense scenarios."
AR Harmful and toxic indeed!
COP15 Biodiversity Deal
The COP15 biodiversity negotiations ended early on Monday when China signed off on the targets. One target is to protect 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade.
WWF‑UK executive director of science and conservation Mike Barrett: "The global ambition agreed at COP15 to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 is vital if we are to bring our planet back from the brink. The tripling of international finance for developing countries, conservation targets to halt species extinction, and the rights of Indigenous peoples being placed front and centre are crucial cornerstones of the deal."
The UN conference ended after several delegates said China had ended it undemocratically. The agreement is not legally binding and relies on goodwill and trust.
AR Good news.
2022 December 18
US Military Spending
The New York Times
Pentagon spending is rising. Congress is on track this week to approve a US military budget for FY 2023 of about $858 billion. If it does, the Pentagon budget will have grown at 4.3% per year over the last two years, even after inflation. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan says the war in Ukraine had exposed shortfalls in the US military industrial base that need to be addressed.
US military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since WW2. More orders are coming in to US military contractors from allies in Europe and Asia too, as they decide to do more to arm up against rising global threats.
50 years on
Over a period of 12 days in December 1972, Operation Linebacker II saw more than 200 US B‑52 bombers fly 730 sorties and drop over 20 kilotons of bombs on North Vietnam. On December 17, the eve of the mission, US President Richard Nixon told his national security adviser Henry Kissinger: "They're going to be so goddamn surprised."
The "Christmas bombings" obliterated swathes of Hanoi and killed an estimated 1,600 Vietnamese. Some likened the horrors to the Hamburg raids of WW2. The flak was fierce, and 15 B‑52s were shot down. A retired US airman: "It almost felt like you could walk across the tips of those missiles in the sky there were so many fired at you."
AR Inexcusable atrocity.
⊛ Robert Darch
Welcome to Brexit island
Andrew Sullivan says Brexit
has "broken the brain" of
US mainstream media:
"Every single story portrays
Britain as a bigoted, isolated
and angry former imperial
power lashing out against
Brexit Island Chaos
For the UK, 2022 was the year of 2 leadership coups, 3 prime ministers, 4 chancellors, 5 education secretaries, 6 fiscal events, and more than 30 exits from the cabinet. The chaos would be laughable were it not so dismal.
Brexit has left Britons poorer. The Brexit revolution devoured itself. The pool of Tory talent has been drained. UK misgovernance is best interpreted not as an aberration but as the culmination of forces unleashed since 2016.
Rishi Sunak promised he would restore orderly government. Yet the doom loop of crisis is not over. Sunak has presided over yet more chaos as strikes have spread from the railways to the NHS and other essential services.
AR Inexcusable idiocy.
2022 December 17
Putin Destroying Russian World
Timothy Garton Ash
In the Ukrainian city of Lviv, every student I talked with showed a total rejection not just of the Russian dictator or of the Russian Federation but of all things Russian.
This may be unsurprising in Ukraine. But the same thing is happening across much of the territory of the former Russian empire. Revulsion against Russia's neocolonial wars has extended to the whole broader notion of a Russian-speaking world. The ideology of a Russian world is associated with the Russian imperial project and autocracy.
Putin is trying to recover parts of the Russian empire by brute force and terror. He will go down in history as the destroyer of the Russian world.
AR Putin is the new avatar of evil.
2022 December 16
UK Tory Woes
Rishi Sunak was selected by MPs as a financier. Getting Tory MPs behind spending cuts and tax rises may be his biggest achievement to date.
Sunak seeks to drain the drama from politics. But some of his supporters say he lacks vision. Low poll results are unlikely to change much soon.
The PM views the issue of small boats in the Channel as existential for the Tories. Without progress, senior Tories fear Nigel Farage could be back.
Sunak has a second priority: the NHS. If he can make progress on boats and the NHS, his team believe the polls will improve.
Return of the king
The Conservatives are on course for defeat at the next election. Tory MPs are discussing who can lead them in opposition. The party would probably move to the right and go back to core values.
Former party chairman Jake Berry: "I think Boris will come back .. He's .. the king over the sea."
AR Brexit booster back spells Tory extinction.
STR / AFP
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships on maneuver in November
Japan Defense Strategy
Japan faces threats from North Korea and China. Its government will build up a system of defense that is not solely reliant on the US military, increase defense spending to 2% of GDP, and develop a counterstrike capability to hit enemy missile launch sites.
PM Fumio Kishida: "I will resolutely fulfill my mission as prime minister to protect and defend the nation and people in the face of a turning point in history .. My understanding is that the current capability is not sufficient."
China's repeated intrusions into the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands pose a "challenge" but Japan and China must build a stable and constructive relationship.
China says Japan "seriously deviates from the basic facts, violates the spirit of the four political documents between China and Japan, willfully incites threats from China, and provokes regional tension and confrontation."
Japan aims to establish and expand a "multilayer network" with allies including the US, Australia, South Korea, India, and ASEAN nations.
Defense spending will increase to a total of ¥43 trillion ($313 billion) over the 5‑year period from FY 2023 to FY 2027. Including coastguard, infrastructure, and research spending, the budget will approach 2% of GDP in FY 2027.
AR Japan right, China wrong.
2022 December 15
Mathematically educated people are akin to the stem cells of a technologically advanced society. Their training and continued professional development are matters of national significance.
Mathematical thinking needs reverse thinking, understanding conceptual models rather than simply following algorithms, and cultivating the ability to see the field rather than just the ball. Informatics, what many call computer science, is the modern companion of mathematics.
The UK government recognises the need for more involvement of people with serious education and skills in mathematics and informatics. Mathematical education is also held back by the focus on testing and examinations at schools.
Preparing students to think for themselves should start with mathematics. Current UK initiatives lack intellectual ambition.
AR This chimes with my perception.
2022 December 14
Fusion Power Breakthrough
Researchers at the US National Ignition Facility in California say their fusion experiments released more energy than was pumped in by the NIF lasers. This is hard evidence that stellar power can be harnessed on Earth.
The NIF was built to perform experiments that recreate, briefly and in miniature, the processes unleashed inside nuclear bombs. More usefully, the experiments are also steps toward mass rollout of clean fusion power.
To achieve ignition, the researchers fire up to 192 giant lasers into a little 1 cm gold cylinder containing a peppercorn-sized fuel pellet. The intense energy heats the cylinder to more than 3 MK and bathes the pellet in X‑rays.
The X‑rays trigger an implosion that causes the deuterium and tritium in the pellet to fuse. Each fusing pair produces a helium nucleus and a burst of energy. Deuterium is easily extracted from seawater, while tritium can be made from lithium.
In the experiment, researchers pumped in 2.05 MJ of laser energy and got about 3.15 MJ out, a sign that fusion reactions in the pellet were pouring out energy. But around 300 MJ was needed to power up the lasers.
Oxford physicist Justin Wark: "This result proves .. fusion in the laboratory is possible. However, the obstacles to be overcome to make anything like a commercial reactor are huge .. It is highly unlikely that fusion will impact on a timescale sufficiently short to impact our current climate change crisis."
AR Cheering news, also for the ITER team.
2022 December 13
Black Holes, by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, is a really good introduction to black hole physics. Bright schoolkids and science undergraduates will certainly enjoy it. The story starts with Newtonian black holes and goes up to the latest wacky ideas linking wormholes with entanglements and using quantum codes to weave the fabric of spacetime.
As you might expect for a book with the name Brian Cox on the cover and the man Stephen Hawking among its actors, the tone is light and informal. Many readers will enjoy its garnish of winking references to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and beer, though Americans might miss mentions of Star Trek. More serious readers will be reassured by the steady slog past famous milestones to the advanced ideas toward the end.
More to the point, the hard ideas are well explained. One gets the clear impression that the authors thoroughly understand the maths of general relativity, the Kerr solution for rotating black holes, AdS/CFT duality, the holographic principle, entanglement entropy, the RT conjecture, the ER = EPR idea, and quantum error-correcting codes. Keeping up a breezy tone as they navigate this lot is good going.
Naturally, the story includes its share of equations. But these are presented without false modesty and clearly explained, so target readers will appreciate them. They're certainly easier to understand than the sort of word salads, replete with misleading metaphors, that too many popular writers get lost in. As Galileo said, maths is the language of nature, so lovers of physics need to meet the equations early.
Altogether, this book is a model of how to get such basic books right. The topic of black holes is exciting, so it provides a natural peg on which to hang the potentially dull stuff about, say, the history of thermodynamics or the details of Bell correlations and nonlocality. In short, well done, lads.
AR I must reconsider the holographic principle.
2022 December 12
Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough
A nuclear fusion reactor has reportedly created more energy than was put into it.
Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California working on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) fusion reactor use lasers to create heat and pressure that turns deuterium and tritium into a plasma for fusion to occur.
In their experiment, the lasers output 2.1 MJ to produce about 2.5 MJ of fusion energy. A useful reactor would have to produce more energy than was initially put into the lasers, which the experiment did not achieve.
A viable commercial reactor is still likely to be decades away.
AR The NIF principle will be great for a starship drive.
Quantum Theory Pioneers
Tobias Hürter reaches back to 1900 and Max Planck's formula showing that energy is quantized into discrete packets.
A few years later, the young Albert Einstein develops his theory of relativity. We meet a young Werner Heisenberg in the 1920s, gazing at the dawn after thinking up the first formulation of quantum mechanics. Soon after his epiphany, Erwin Schrödinger produced the second formulation of quantum mechanics.
The fifth Solvay Physics Conference, a week-long meeting held in Brussels in October 1927, was attended by some 30 of the leading physicists of the time. Among them were the key players in the development of quantum mechanics, including Heisenberg and his friend and collaborator Wolfgang Pauli. The very shy Paul Dirac, even younger than Heisenberg, had already made major contributions and a year later would formulate QED.
The 1927 conference is where the most famous debate in modern physics began. In the previous year, Niels Bohr and Heisenberg had worked out the concepts they needed to comprehend the new theory, including wave−particle duality, complementarity, the collapse of the wave function, and the uncertainty principle.
The consensus was that Bohr and Heisenberg were right, Schrödinger and Einstein wrong.
AR The quantum boys − the greatest generation.
Orion splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, west of California, after traveling around the Moon and returning safely to Earth,
is the final milestone of the Artemis I mission
2022 December 11
Putin Will Escalate
Putin should expect more Ukrainian strikes deep inside Russian territory. US attempts to dissuade Ukraine were bound to fail. The strikes make the war more dangerous.
Putin is picking a global fight. As winter bites, his weaponization of gas supplies is hitting home across Europe. Diplomatically, his battle to divide opponents is intensifying.
NATO applicants Finland and Sweden report cyberattacks. Poland and Moldova report border scares. Troops are on the move in Belarus. Putin is rattling his nuclear weapons.
Putin frames the conflict as a historic confrontation between Russia and the West. His failure to subjugate Ukraine and his tactical blunders are driving him to escalate.
AR Russians must topple him.
Our European Destiny
Brexit has caused lasting damage to the UK economy.
The UK is the only economy in the G7 still below its pre-pandemic size. Business investment has flatlined since 2016, compared with EU and US trends, and trade is lower.
Brexit has piled up extra form filling and costs for business. This nightmare will worsen if the abominable "Brexit freedoms bill" ever reaches the statute book.
Brexit has delivered both chronic labour shortages and a dramatic jump in net migration in the year to June 2022.
Brexit is proving a disaster. Our destiny lies with Europe.
AR Get Joining Done.
2022 December 10
In its later years, the British empire was haunted by fears of decline and dreams of rebirth. Jed Esty asks whether the United States has succumbed to the same malady.
Donald Trump aimed to Make America Great Again. For Joe Biden, America is Number One. This cockeyed view of the world will be painfully familiar to Brits. It results in too much military spending and too little on education and infrastructure.
The idea that US imperial decline resembles British decline does not stand up to scrutiny. The British empire never wielded the firepower commanded by Washington today. The UK never took on the Soviet Union or modern China. And US domestic problems are far more severe and violent than anything in postwar Britain.
Young Americans have turned away from US exceptionalism. Americans over 60 remain addicted to American hubris. Gerontocrats think they are waging a global power struggle with Russia and China.
The Biden administration says the aim of US policy is to cap China's development and to sustain US military superiority. This is the logic of war.
AR Give peace a chance.
AR The UK coup d'état
has failed dismally.
2022 December 9
On Saturday, in Stockholm, Nobel prizes will be presented in physics, chemistry, and medicine, but not mathematics.
Science works when scientists spot patterns in the universe and describe them, whether in words, like Darwin's theory of evolution, or mathematically, like Maxwell's equations. They are then tested by experiment. Patterns that stand up to scrutiny are called theories.
A new breed of scientist known as theorists deduced patterns simply by mixing and matching old ones, without doing any experiments at all. But seeing patterns among patterns is only possible in fields whose patterns have been described mathematically.
Theoretical physicists and mathematicians unify disconnected fields, conceive entirely new subfields, and create the starting point of radical new technologies. Despite their value, theorists are neglected by governments. Research funding is biased against them.
Theorists feel compelled to conjure up patterns. They confer the benefit to mankind that Nobel sought to honour.
AR The Fields Medal is enough, thanks.
A German far-right group was apparently plotting a coup d'état. The group was gathered around Heinrich XIII, Prince Reuß of Greiz, who was to be head of state.
Heinrich XIII planned to negotiate with Russia and had approached Russian authorities, though no evidence exists of them responding. His group posed a genuine and violent threat to public order in Germany.
Investigators first learned of the plot in April when searching the home of a former paratrooper near Bayreuth and finding firearms and ammunition. The group was surprisingly far advanced in wargaming a coup d'état.
The 25 arrested on Wednesday will appear before the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe. Many have links to the Reichsbürger scene, a fringe, anti-Semitic, monarchist movement that says the old German Reich never legally ceased to exist.
German liberal MP Konstantin Kuhle: "Anyone who rejects or even wants to abolish the state order in Germany cannot be a civil servant."
AR I dislike nationalism, German or otherwise.
2022 December 8
Look Back in Anger
The UK is badly governed and in a terrible economic mess. The basic problem is that we have become a low-wage economy in which millions of people are locked into unrewarding working lives.
This has been a simmering problem for ages. The end of the Cold War and a new phase of market-driven globalisation pushed wealth into London's financial market and made Britain a destination for capital and skilled labour.
We have been a low-wage economy, for most people, because we haven't been a high-productivity or high-growth economy. That's about education, investment in science and infrastructure, and the long-term incentives for business to invest more and disperse less to shareholders. It will take us a long time to recover.
Turning around the ship is going to be the next big social democratic project. It's going to require a much more assertive state, long-term investment, and a commitment to fairness on wages, which will require higher taxation.
The Brown commission's announcements are welcome, particularly the commitment to abolishing the House of Lords. A senate or second chamber seems a modest and thoughtful proposal. We need a corruption commissioner in Westminster and an end to the merry-go-round between corporate lobbying and political office. But exactly how economic devolution for the towns and cities can be achieved remains unclear.
What matters about the Brown initiative is less the detail than the basic assertion that there is an alternative and better way of doing things. But the anger will be with us throughout 2023.
AR Anger is better than despair.
A strange gamma ray burst (GRB) lasted unusually long when two stars merged. Short GRBs last less than 2 s and generally occur when two neutron stars collide and form a black hole. Long GRBs can last minutes and are associated with supernovas.
Four research groups saw GRB 211211A come from two stars colliding and continue for about one minute. One team suggested the merger may have made a magnetar. The other three decided it made a black hole. The puzzle persists.
AR A marginal case − excellent.
Poole Quay, Thursday: The last time I took a photo from this spot the temperature was ca 40 K higher
von gewaltsamen Umsturzfantasien und Verschwörungsideologien getrieben
2022 December 7
UK Government Drifting
Rishi Sunak has yielded to Tory rebels who oppose an annual target of creating 300,000 new homes. He cannot whip them.
The rebels leave Downing Street with no agenda but survival. Ever since the budget statement, Sunak has been forced to appease Brexiteers and focus on Channel migration.
One Brexit bill in the pipeline repudiates the NI protocol, thus angering Brussels. Another erases the legacy of EU regulation from the statute book, thus angering business.
Sunak knows both bills need dilution, but both have zealous defenders. Britain is drifting into a grim winter.
AR Call a general election.
Fixing British Politics
Twelve years of Conservative government have made the UK the most regionally unequal economy in Europe.
The more the economy fails, the more people lose trust. Despite the promise of 2016 that the people would take back control, millions feel ignored, neglected, and forgotten.
The Commission on the UK's Future is demanding a new economic and political settlement:
• We know doubling growth, increasing productivity, and creating the new well-paid jobs of the future will not come from trying to win a race to the bottom to attract low-paying jobs from abroad.
• We have identified employment hotspots across our towns and cities, in every region and nation, where homegrown inventions, entrepreneurship, and workplace skills can create new products and competitive companies.
• We need a new Westminster and a new Whitehall, and we need to disperse about 50,000 civil servants and a host of agencies out of London.
• We need clarity about the UK in a constitution that guarantees free universal healthcare, an end to poverty, a sustainable environment, and the defence of our security.
• We need a new agency to uphold proper standards in public life. A new second chamber should assume a new function to protect the constitution.
The time is overdue for the new constitution we propose.
AR This, plus PR, is what we need.
The UK government is about
to unleash a "cataclysmic"
flood of debt sales − an
estimated £240 billion
of gilts for each of
the next five FY
2022 December 6
Fix Broken Britain
The ten most deprived towns in England voted for Brexit. Leave voters considered that an "elite" in power cared little about those on the bottom rungs of society, who felt trapped. The elite were unaffected by austerity measures and seemed to thrive on them.
The slogan "Take Back Control" appealed to those voters because what they considered lacking in their lives was control. Their lives were going nowhere, they were stuck, and they felt unrepresented with their deep concerns.
The EU was not the cause of any of the problems facing the deprived and forgotten areas of Britain. But Brexiteers knew how to exploit them.
Leave campaigners stole the personal data of millions of those who fitted the right profile and targeted them with powerful messages. They told them EU membership was the cause of their lives feeling stagnant and that Brexit was the answer.
Leaving the EU has caused the UK severe economic pain. A lot of the pain was already there when the UK was a member. The Leave side wrongly accused the EU and migrants, but they weren't the cause.
We will need deep reforms in the UK before we can become a welcome candidate for EU membership again. Rejoining would not fix all the UK's problems. But Brexit has made the problems worse, including the current cost-of-living crisis.
A Rejoin party cannot win until the problems affecting Britain and poor Britons are fixed. These problems were not caused by EU membership and cannot be put right by EU membership. Fix broken Britain first, then rejoin.
AR Sad but true: First the revolution, then rejoin.
A Cosmic Twist
There is a chiral asymmetry in the cosmic arrangement of galaxies.
In the beginning, a repulsive inflaton field is thought to have inflated our universe rapidly. Quantum fluctuations in the inflaton field became variations in the large-scale structure of the universe we see today.
A chiral inflaton field may have interacted with the gravitational field to create more particles of one chirality than the other. Chern−Simons coupling would have created chiral density variations in the early universe. This could explain why our universe contains more matter than antimatter.
To discover that the galaxy distribution violates parity, researchers checked tetrahedral arrangements of four galaxies. They took a galaxy and looked at the distances to three other galaxies. If the distances increased going clockwise, they called the tetrahedron R; if otherwise, L.
To determine whether the universe has a preferred chirality, they repeated the analysis for all possible tetrahedra for a database of a million galaxies and compared the results to expectations based on parity conservation.
The real data show a 7σ level of parity violation.
AR If independently confirmed, this is huge.
Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz
2022 December 5
A New Era in Europe
For most of the world, the three decades since the Iron Curtain fell have been a period of relative peace and prosperity.
In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the rules-based international order a mere tool of American dominance. In 2008, Russia launched a war against Georgia. In 2014, Russia occupied and annexed Crimea. Step by step, Putin chose a path that took Russia further from a cooperative, peaceful order.
Russia's brutal attack on Ukraine in February 2022 then ushered in a new reality. Russia is causing unspeakable suffering in Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainian citizens have had to seek refuge in Poland and other European countries, a million of them in Germany.
Security in Europe will require a new strategic culture. A balanced and resilient transatlantic partnership requires that Germany and Europe play active roles. Germans stand with Ukrainians as they defend their country against Russian aggression.
NATO must credibly deter further Russian aggression. The EU and the transatlantic alliance are strong. Russia is facing unprecedented economic sanctions. Putin needs to understand that no sanction will be lifted should Russia try to dictate the terms of a peace deal.
All the G7 leaders have commended Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's readiness for a just peace that respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and safeguards Ukraine's ability to defend itself in the future. We will not accept the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. Russia must withdraw its troops.
Putin wanted to divide Europe, but the EU has granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and reaffirmed Georgia's future in Europe.
Our goal is an EU with over 500 million free citizens, representing the largest internal market in the world, that will set global standards on trade, growth, climate change, and environmental protection and that will host leading research institutes and innovative businesses in a family of stable democracies enjoying unparalleled social welfare and public infrastructure.
The EU is a political actor. We must close ranks on crucial areas in which disunity would make us more vulnerable. On immigration, the EU must devise a strategy that is pragmatic and aligns with its values. On fiscal policy, the EU has established a recovery and resilience fund that will also help address high energy prices.
Europe must continue to assume greater responsibility for its own security. History did not end with the Cold War.
AR Wise and balanced.
2022 December 4
The Reality of Brexit
Brexit added almost £6 billion to British food bills in 2020 and 2021. Poor households were hit hardest. Brexit red tape added £210 to the average British household's grocery bill over the period.
Some 7 billion meals went to waste this year. Farmers cite a shortage of fruit and veg pickers as the key factor. Some 40% of NFU members lost crops because they lacked the seasonal workers who used to come from the continent.
At the hospital, strain on the NHS has been exacerbated by Brexit, according to Nuffield Trust research. The trust says the situation in social care is urgent, with the halt in EU migration barring continental care workers from coming to the rescue.
At the airport, British holidaymakers now need to queue for hours where once they breezed through. At the ferry terminal, UK musicians who once earned a living performing on the continent now find Brexit has blocked their path.
Brexit will make Britain 4% worse off, with £40 billion less annual tax revenue for schools, hospitals, and the rest. Tory claims that Brexit will work out in the end ring hollow. Reality bites.
Brexit is a broken dream
The broken dream of Brexit is an unmentionable fact in Westminster. Careful politicians avoid confronting it. But they see the truth.
A trading nation living next to an immense trading bloc that remains by far its biggest trading partner will feel economic pressure to converge, reducing the barriers its imports and exporters face. That was the whole purpose of the single European market.
After 2016, the argument for soft Brexit faced the slogan: rule‑takers but not rule‑makers. The referendum directed the government to break the rules. Leavers proposed to make up for the hit to UK−EU trade by increasing trade with the rest of the world.
The American hope has faded. There are no good reasons to resist associate membership of the European single market.
Brexit is not working
The UK government must face facts:
• The current UK relationship with the EU is damaging the UK economy.
• The UK government must find ways to improve the current Brexit deal.
• Trade friction is inevitable but negotiated improvements can reduce it.
• It is in UK and EU interests to agree strong shared interests and values.
The UK government needs a plan:
1 Repair trust with Brussels and EU capitals,
2 Develop a new policy and strategy on Europe,
3 Revisit agreements that are not functioning well.
AR Do it now.
Plasma Sailing to Alpha Centauri
A spacecraft crossing the boundary of plasma at the edge of our solar system could be boosted to high speed for interstellar travel. The craft would use an electromagnetic field as a solar sail hundreds of km across.
This sail would catch the plasma streaming outward at 650 km/s to some 90 AU beyond the Sun before meeting particles in interstellar space at the termination shock. The craft would pick up speed by tacking at this boundary.
Magnetic coils would kick the craft perpendicular to the solar wind with each tack. Two years of such dynamic soaring could accelerate it to extreme speeds, potentially up to 0.02c.
AR Still slow.
Prototype B-21 Raider unveiled at USAF "Skunk Works" Plant 42, Palmdale, California
2022 December 3
Dorset and Barbados
Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax is an old Etonian and a former captain in the Coldstream Guards. Since 2010, he has been Conservative MP for South Dorset.
He owns a portfolio of companies and properties across England, lives in Chartborough House in an estate covering about 2% of Dorset, and is worth an estimated £150 million.
Drax has been named and shamed for omitting to declare ownership of his family's Barbados sugar plantation in the parliamentary register of members' interests. Civil rights activists backed by a Barbados special envoy are demanding that he pay compensation for the sins of his forebears.
Around 370 years ago, Sir James Drax pioneered the use of African slaves to cultivate his sugar plantation in Barbados. Drax Hall still stands there, and the plantation still employs local people. But the Drax heirs were enlightened compared with some plantation bosses.
The Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker describes the trials the slaves suffered. Those who survived the voyage across the Atlantic were paraded, naked and in chains, for auction in Bridgetown.
After an uprising in Barbados in 1675, more than 100 slaves were tried, 17 judged guilty, 6 burnt alive, and 11 beheaded. For an uprising in 1692, 42 slaves were castrated. At its height, this brutal system funded British crown coffers with the modern equivalent of over £500 billion a year.
Sir James Drax came from a humble Warwickshire family and had £300 when he sailed to Barbados. He learned to apply new methods of sugar production and prospered, with hundreds of black slaves. The British government later paid his heirs the equivalent today of some £500,000 to give them up.
Richard Drax is the seventh Drax heir to sit in the Commons and has been an ardent Brexiteer since before the referendum.
AR Dorset has feudal politics.
⊛ Franco Pagetti
"Do not forget my country's
tragedy and get used
to our suffering."
2022 December 2
War in Ukraine
German chancellor Olaf Scholz urges Russian president Vladimir Putin to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict as soon as possible.
The Kremlin says Putin told Scholz the German and western line on Ukraine was destructive and urged Berlin to rethink its approach.
Kyiv says peace talks are possible only if Russia stops attacking Ukrainian territory and withdraws its troops from Ukrainian soil.
World War III
The United States is entering an era of great power rivalry that could escalate to large-scale war.
The acute threat comes from Moscow. President Putin controls thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy civilization many times over. Since invading Ukraine, he has threatened to use them.
Putin could plausibly act on that threat under several scenarios: if US or NATO forces directly enter the conflict, if he believes his rule is threatened, or if Ukrainian forces verge on retaking Crimea. The risk of Armageddon is the highest it has been since the Cuban missile crisis.
If Russia is not enough, US relations with China are in free fall. President Biden recalls the US commitment to defend Taiwan and vows to send US troops in the event of a Chinese invasion.
A war would likely last a long time and take many lives. China would have incentives to mount a massive attack to disable US forces stationed in the Pacific. Each side would be tempted to escalate. In a prolonged war, China could mount cyberattacks to disrupt critical American infrastructure.
A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would profoundly damage the US and global economy regardless of Washington's response. A yearlong conflict would slash US GDP by 5−10%. The gas price surge early in the Ukraine war provides only the slightest preview of what a US−China war would generate.
A war with Russia or China would likely injure the United States on a scale without precedent.
AR Take down Putin, pacify China.
2022 December 1
Quantum Computer Simulates Wormhole
A quantum computer has been used to simulate a holographic wormhole for the first time. Simulations like this may help us develop a theory of quantum gravity.
Maria Spiropulu and her Caltech team used the Google Sycamore quantum computer to simulate a holographic wormhole through spacetime with black holes at either end. They sent a qubit message through it.
In a real wormhole the trip would involve gravity, but the holographic wormhole uses quantum effects as a substitute. The message travels by quantum teleportation between two entangled particles.
Spiropulu: "The signal scrambles, it becomes mush, it becomes chaos, and then it gets put back together and appears immaculate on the other side."
A wormhole in a quantum computer
A team has implemented a wormhole teleportation protocol on a quantum computer. The experiment helps us understand the holographic principle.
Juan Maldacena discovered that anti‑de Sitter (AdS) spacetime and gravity correspond to properties of a conformal quantum field theory (CFT) on the boundary. He called it AdS/CFT duality. He found that a certain entanglement pattern involving two sets of particles is mathematically dual to a pair of black holes in AdS space whose interiors connect via a wormhole. He coined the slogan ER = EPR.
Daniel Jafferis conjectured that ER = EPR should let us design bespoke wormholes by tailoring an entanglement pattern. He developed the wormhole teleportation protocol. Others then showed that the traversable wormhole can be realized in a simple quantum system. Further work led to the holographic SYK model.
Two SYK models linked together can encode the two mouths of a traversable wormhole. To teleport a qubit from one system of particles to another, we rotate all the spin directions. In the dual spacetime, this becomes a shock wave that kicks a qubit out of the wormhole.
Maria Spiropulu and her team simplified the wormhole teleportation protocol to run on the Google Sycamore quantum computer. The team ran the protocol and saw the signature.
The experiment may tell us nothing about our de Sitter (dS) universe. AdS has an outer boundary and dS space does not. The boundary is what makes holography possible.
Renate Loll: "It is rather tempting to get entangled in the intricacies of the 2D toy models."
Traversable wormhole dynamics on a quantum processor
Daniel Jafferis et al.
Nature 612, 51−55 (2022)
The holographic principle postulates that the description of a volume of space can be encoded on a lower-dimensional boundary. The AdS/CFT duality is the principal example. The Sachdev−Ye−Kitaev (SYK) model is a new realization of holography.
We invoke the holographic correspondence of the SYK many-body system and gravity to probe the conjectured ER = EPR relation between entanglement and spacetime geometry.
We construct a sparsified SYK model that we experimentally realize with 164 2‑qubit gates on a 9‑qubit circuit and observe the corresponding traversable wormhole dynamics. Our experiment was run on the Google Sycamore processor.
AR Our universe is not holographic: See blog 2022-11-18.
First day of winter − good day to visit my beach
2022 November 30
Titan of Logic
John von Neumann was born in Budapest in 1903 and died in Washington DC at the age of 53. In areas from set theory through quantum mechanics and the computing revolution to game theory and his late work, he reduced complex problems to simple logic.
He was born into a prosperous Jewish family. At the University of Budapest, he was 17 when he published his first paper. In 10 pages, he deployed set theory to articulate a definition of ordinal and cardinal numbers that remains standard today.
His doctoral dissertation in 1925 axiomatized set theory. In 1928, he developed a theory of games. He used the insights decades later to create a computer architecture that became a standard. He later defined logical machines that could replicate virally.
Von Neumann also worked in the social sciences. His 1944 book with Oskar Morgenstern, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, aimed to identify the problems of economic behavior with the mathematical notions of games of strategy.
Von Neumann forgot a basic truth about logic and life. Every mathematical rendering of objects that are not purely mathematical is a simplification. In 1955, he said the only way avoid global catastrophe is to rely on human qualities.
AR I've labored in his shadow for 50 years.
⊛ Alessio Mamo
2022 November 29
Protests in China
President Xi Jinping centralized communist power to stop China disintegrating like the Soviet Union. He became the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Opponents bottled up their discontent.
People took to the streets this week in anti-lockdown protests. Students, factory workers, doctors are on the streets. For the first time, they feel people in the higher party echelons support them.
AR China needs to change.
Hegel Notes Discovered
Hegel biographer Klaus Vieweg, a professor in Jena, has found more than 4,000 pages of notes on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's lectures in a library. The notes help reveal how Hegel formed his ideas on aesthetics.
Vieweg believes the notes were written by Friedrich Wilhelm Carové, one of the first students Hegel taught at Heidelberg between 1816 and 1818. Vieweg and Bamberg philosopher Christian Illies will lead a team to compile the papers.
Illies: "Hegel first lectured on aesthetics in Heidelberg. By the time he was lecturing in Berlin, he had reworked his ideas significantly. This is the first time any transcript of these original lectures from Heidelberg has been found."
Vieweg: "The transcript ends with an emphasis on .. individual freedom .. It shows us that art undoubtedly contributes to an idea that is so critical to our lives today, that education leads to freedom."
AR This may be interesting.
Trinity College Cambridge:
In a chapel address, a former
student of Rowan Williams
suggested Jesus Christ had
a "trans body" and said the
"spear of destiny" wound
was like a vagina.
A worshipper: "I left the
service in tears."
2022 November 28
Russia Wins by Losing
My friends in Kyiv urgently need anti-drone defense. The Russians are trying to freeze millions of people out by destroying the power grid.
Ukrainians have no electricity and no water. Their extraordinary physical courage and ethical commitment reminds me of Leszek Kołakowski's definition of an ethical act as something more than anyone could have expected of you.
I met Volodymyr Zelensky in September. We talked mostly about philosophy and the meaning of freedom. He said freedom sometimes means having no choice, like when he decided to stay in Kyiv when the invasion began in February.
The Kremlin narrative is wrong. When you answer propaganda directly, you get into an unpleasant dance with the propagandists. The history of Ukraine is more interesting than the propaganda.
Many expected Ukraine to collapse within days after Russian tanks rolled in. Things that seem technical and objective, like the evaluation of a war, can often depend upon subjective things, like whether we believe a country is real.
To become a normal European country, you need to lose your wars. Russia needs to lose this war. The whole invasion is a substitute for the internal changes Russia needs to make. Russians still see negotiations as a pause to regroup and attack again.
Meaningful negotiations can only begin once Ukraine has won the war. We need to help the Ukrainians win.
AR We do, but ..
UK Housing Crisis
The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised to trigger the building of 300,000 new homes a year.
The UK has a shortage of homes for social rent, and pitiful numbers are built each year. Tory rebels now want to make housing targets advisory rather than mandatory, get rid of the presumption for development, and let councils ban building on green belts. They seem set on making nimbyism the governing principle of British society.
Objecting to concreting over huge chunks of countryside and obliterating natural habitats is not evil. Too many new projects are cheaply constructed, lack community amenities, and are no help to pensioners or single people. New development can deepen the problems of places where services and infrastructure are in decay.
If we fail to maintain the stuff that keeps the UK running, our future becomes impossible.
AR Endgame UK ..
2022 November 27
The Inward Turn
To share is now to talk with others about one's thoughts, feelings, or experiences.
For most of the period since the scientific revolution, the emphasis was on engaging with external reality to solve collective problems. Shared empirical standards and objective conceptions of truth sat behind the transformation in economics and technology that created the modern world.
In recent decades, there has been an inward turn, from the outer world to the inner self, from external reality to subjective feelings. We used to take photos to remember events or vistas. Now we take selfies.
The inward turn might help to explain a transformation in political debate. If my focus is inwardly directed and my self-esteem requires me to be right, I may be more disinclined to engage with other points of view, more likely to feel offended when someone disagrees with my opinions.
The danger comes when lived experience trumps data on matters of fact. The inward turn takes us away from shared reality. Academic subjects that prioritise feelings above data are now being taught in UK universities and even schools.
Brexit illustrates the inward turn. Leave voters use subjective feelings to justify their decision, even in the face of objectively worsening evidence. We may be poorer, they say, but we have control over our economy and our borders. The feeling of control has left us adrift among external events.
When truth becomes subjective, we become marooned on solipsistic islands. Descartes said we cannot be certain of anything beyond ourselves. Wittgenstein said language, science, and truth can emerge only when we transcend the self and connect meaningfully with others.
Left unchecked, the inward turn could one day destroy our civilisation.
AR Wise words.
NK leader Kim Jong-un and his daughter Ju Ae with soldiers in front of a Hwasong‑17 ICBM
NK Nuclear Threat
Kim Jong-un says North Korea aims to build a powerful nuclear force. He calls the Hwasong‑17 ICBM the "world's strongest strategic weapon" and says it demonstrates NK resolve and ability to build the world's strongest army to protect the dignity and sovereignty of the state and the people.
Kim says NK scientists have made a "wonderful leap forward in the development of the technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles" and are expected to expand and strengthen the NK nuclear deterrent rapidly.
Capable of reaching the US mainland, the Hwasong‑17 launched on 19 November prompted a US call for a UN security council presidential statement to hold NK accountable for its missile tests.
The NK Supreme People's Assembly recently awarded the Hwasong‑17 the title of DPRK hero and gold star medal and order of national flag 1st class for proving to the world that the DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear power capable of standing against the nuclear supremacy of US imperialists.
AR No joke.
President Zelensky hosts
international summit in
Kyiv on food security
2022 November 26
The Meaning of Thought
Philosophy is the most general way of thinking about our thinking. It is more general still than mathematics, which is itself a form of language and thought that serves as a foundation for the natural sciences and technology ..
Naturalism is the view that all genuine knowledge and progress can be reduced to a combination of natural science and technological mastery of the survival conditions of human beings. Yet this is a fundamental error, a dangerous delusion, which haunts us in the form of various ideological crises ..
New Realism is my proposal for overcoming the basic intellectual errors to which we continue to succumb, much to the harm of our society and our own humanity.
I will introduce you to the notion that .. our thought is a sense, just like sight, taste, fearing, feeling or touch. Through thinking, we touch a reality accessible only to thought .. I argue the case for giving our thought a new meaning, in the sense of a new direction.
AR Quoted from the preface.
2022 November 25
Nicholas Humphrey says sentience is a higher form of consciousness. In cognitive consciousness, the mind is merely aware of stimuli that influence behavior. In sentient or phenomenal consciousness, these perceptions are accompanied by subjective feelings some call qualia. Others consider sentience as a mere buzz of awareness.
All consciousness might once have been cognitive: Senses informed actions, but their signals weren't presented to the self along with corresponding qualia. Perhaps most non-human animals might have minds like this. We have little idea if that is the case.
Phenomenal consciousness changes everything. Humphrey: "It's an invention so sublime that, if it were to cease to exist, it would indeed diminish the whole of creation."
AR OK, phenomenal consciousness = sentience.
2022 November 24
Expecting the apocalypse is an American pastime.
Nuclear warheads may or may not fall from the skies. Ditto Jesus. But the planet will get hotter. Within the limits of history, there is no solution, whether we look to climate accords or philanthropic billionaires.
The crisis cannot be resolved from within the institutions that gave rise to it. The oil companies will not stop drilling unless we force them to. The state guarantees the property relations that got us into this mess.
What comes next could well be even worse.
AR Ooh, goose bumps!
Record UK Migration Numbers
Net UK migration rose to half a million this year, the highest level on record. The ONS says total immigration reached an estimated 1.1 million in the year to June. An estimated 560,000 people emigrated, leaving net migration at 504,000 for the year.
AR Another Brexit nonsense exposed.
Johnson Claim: German Reply
Germany dismisses claims by Boris Johnson that before the Russian invasion of Ukraine it said Ukraine would be better off folding than getting stuck in a long war.
Spokesperson for Chancellor Olaf Scholz: "We know that the very entertaining former prime minister always has a unique relationship with the truth; this case is no exception."
Johnson said EU nations rallied behind Ukraine only after the invasion. He promised on the eve of the invasion that the UK would back Ukraine.
AR Many were pessimistic at first.
2022 November 23
Russia 'Terrorist Regime'
A large majority of MEPs have approved a resolution in the European Parliament saying Russia is "a terrorist regime as a consequence of its deliberate physical destruction of civilian infrastructure and mass murder of Ukrainian civilians with the aim of eliminating the Ukrainian people" and urge EU27 member states to make the same designation. The EP cannot compel EU governments or the European Commission to follow its policy recommendations.
Initial European response was disastrous
The Russian invasion was a huge shock. We could see the battalion tactical groups amassing, but different countries had very different perspectives.
The French were in denial right up until the last moment. The German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly, and for Ukraine to fold. I thought that was a disastrous way of looking at it.
Soon everybody saw that you couldn't negotiate with Putin. I pay tribute to the way the EU has acted. They have been united. The sanctions were tough. If Ukraine chooses to be a member of the EU, they should go for it.
President Zelensky is a very brave guy. I think the history of this conflict would have been totally, totally different if he hadn't been there.
AR The pain in Ukraine is Putin down the drain.
Britain: Poverty Everywhere
Jeremy Hunt salvaged the British economy by borrowing.
Public sector funding will be eaten both by inflation and by spending cuts. Families will see their living standards fall. Ahead loom the hardest two years in living memory and the sharpest GDP decline in Europe next year.
The Conservative party has failed as a trustworthy steward of government. Hard Brexit has turned it into a Utopian cult. Business investment has cratered, and trade is no longer driving growth.
The Conservatives have presided over a disaster. Free market growth ran on cheap credit. Cheap credit crashed the banking system. Austerity eroded social solidarity. Brexit created trade friction. Tories doubled down on economic nationalism, crass xenophobia, and legalized corruption.
There is poverty everywhere in Britain.
AR Mason isn't exaggerating: it's shocking.
2022 November 22
UK Low Prospects
The UK economy is set to be the worst performer in the G20 bar Russia over the next two years, says the OECD. Its latest economic forecasts UK GDP will fall 0.4% in 2023 and rise 0.2% in 2024, a longer and deeper downturn even than the forecast for Germany, whose economy is vulnerable to high energy prices. OECD acting chief economist Alvaro Santos Pereira says the economic adjustment under way in the UK has compounded concerns about low UK productivity growth.
Britain still needs the EU
The UK needs a functional relationship with the EU. But dependency on the single market offends the sacred core of Brexit. Tory hardliners reacted with fury to rumors that the government was mooting a Swiss model.
Ignorance or misrepresentation of the single market was the binding thread in a triple fallacy in the economic case for leaving the EU:
✗ Europe was dismissed as the dotard of the global economy
✗ Britain would retain the benefits of the single market anyway
✗ The cost of regulatory compliance with EU rules was too great
Rishi Sunak cited all three in an article explaining his decision to vote leave in 2016. Now we know Brexit is a drag on UK economic performance. That fact is taboo, so it leaks out as a rumor about a Swiss model.
AR Ah, Brexit ..
Wareham Forest, 2022-11-22
2022 November 21
World Still on Brink
The COP27 final agreement offers poor countries financial assistance for the rescue and rebuilding of vulnerable areas stricken by climate disaster. Other commitments were dropped from the deal, at the behest mainly of Saudi Arabia and other petro-states.
COP26 UK president Alok Sharma tried at COP27 to go further but failed: "Emissions peaking before 2025 .. Not in this text. Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal. Not in this text. A commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text."
UN secretary general António Guterres: "Our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now."
AR Tragedy of the commons.
No to Swiss Model
Under my leadership, the UK will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws.
I believe in Brexit. I know that Brexit can deliver and is already delivering enormous benefits and opportunities for the country:
✗ On migration, we have proper control of our borders.
✗ On trade, we can open up our country to the world's fastest growing markets.
✗ On regulation, we need regulatory regimes that create the jobs and growth of the future.
AR Another dud PM: Next please!
The Brexit Disaster
Support for Brexit nationwide has fallen to a record low, with 56% saying we were wrong to leave and a mere 32% saying we were right. As the economy implodes and the UK makes common cause with the EU in the war against Russia, Brexiteers are losing the argument.
Economic and business leaders are becoming more vocal. The CBI urges the government to seek better relations with the EU. The OBR says Brexit has had an adverse impact on British trade. Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey says Brexit is damaging the economy.
Paris has overtaken London as Europe's largest stock market. India has overtaken Britain to become the world's fifth largest economy. Asylum seekers cross the Channel to the UK in record numbers. The NHS is close to collapse. The US trade deal never happened.
Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt know all this and are changing course. They are considering a relaxation of post-Brexit immigration limits. They are seeking rapprochement with the EU and Ireland to resolve the dispute with Brussels over the NI protocol.
A Conservative prime minister called the 2016 referendum. A Conservative prime minister led us out of Europe. Conservative zealots forced the hardest possible Brexit. The Tories inflicted on Britain the greatest act of economic self-harm in living memory.
AR Rishi, take note!
New SI units
The International System of Units (SI) has had additional numerical prefixes confirmed by a vote at the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in Versailles, France.
The CGPM member states voted for the two new prefixes for numbers with 30 or 27 zeros. The last expansion of the system was in 1991, for numbers with 24 or 21 zeros.
AR 1 solar mass = 2 × 1033 g = 2 ronnatons and mass of Jupiter = 2 × 1030 g = 2 Qg
2022 November 20
Britain Eyes Swiss Model
The Sunday Times
Senior government figures are planning to put the UK on the path toward a Swiss model for relations with the EU, with more liberal EU migration, payments to the EU budget, and a greater role for the ECJ in the relationship.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt: "I think having unfettered trade with our neighbours and countries all over the world is very beneficial to growth. I have great confidence that over the years ahead .. we are able to remove the vast majority of the trade barriers that exist between us and the EU."
Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost: "Any approach requiring the UK to align with EU rules to get trade benefits, whether as part of a Swiss-style approach or any other, would be quite unacceptable."
Tory ERG hardliners fear the government will give ground to resolve the row over the NI protocol. A deal could see the EU drop most of its checks on goods passing between GB and NI if the UK takes a less ideological position on the role of the ECJ in NI.
A Downing Street source: "Rishi wants to get this sorted as quickly as possible. There's definitely a deal to be done .. He's not going to be giving up stuff that he and the party would not be happy with him giving up."
AR Better, but still not enough.
2022 November 19
Helene von Bismarck
The relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe has stopped getting worse. In the sad world of UK−EU relations, this is progress.
The change is due to the threat to European security. Putin's war against Ukraine has rendered a central narrative for Brexit untenable. Until then, the "will of the people" demanded leaving the EU to go for Global Britain.
The UK remains primarily a Euro-Atlantic power. When war broke out on the continent, Britain stepped up its military support for Ukraine. The war and the resulting energy crisis show it is impossible to escape geography.
Politicians and officials from the UK and Europe now meet much more frequently than they have in years. This helps rebuild trust and connections. But the improvement will be limited while the UK remains outside the EU.
Along with NATO, the EU is the main organization countering the threat from Putin's Russia. All Europeans should stand together.
AR Sad that this needs saying.
Quantum AND Gate
Charles Q Choi
Quantum computers require that all their logic operations be reversible.
The NOT operation is reversible, but the AND gate is a challenge: A workaround uses an ancilla qubit for each AND gate to hold the data to reverse the operation.
Present quantum computers run on noisy platforms with only a few qubits and are prone to errors. It would be hard to design and build hardware for extra ancilla qubits.
Chinese researchers have made a new quantum AND gate with no need for ancilla qubits. Its qubits can encode a third state holding the data to reverse the operation.
The researchers ran their quantum AND gates on a superconducting quantum processor with tunable-coupling architecture and used them to make Toffoli gates.
Quantum computers with Toffoli gates are functionally complete.
AR I find this important.
2022 November 18
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement heralds the most austere package of revenue-raising and spending curbs for more than a decade. The market reaction suggests the £55 billion belt-tightening, though backloaded, managed to placate investors.
UK living standards are set for their biggest fall in six decades. The UK economy will regain its pre-pandemic level only by the end of 2024. UK growth problems remain chronic.
AR Blame Brexit.
Our Typical Cosmos
We think space inflated rapidly just after the Big Bang. To explain its gentle growth ever since, we guess our universe is just one among many in a multiverse.
A new calculation suggests our universe is the way it is because other options are extremely improbable. We calculate the entropy of our universe using a path integral technique that reveals a link with thermodynamics.
Thermodynamics describes a system of many parts as being in a macrostate and each specific configuration as a microstate. The number of microstates behind a macrostate defines its entropy. The higher the entropy of a macrostate, the more likely it is.
In thermodynamics, we add up all possible configurations of a system. And with the path integral, we add up all possible paths a system can take. But thermodynamics deals in probabilities, which are positive numbers, whereas the path integral assigns a complex number to each path.
We use math. Transform time from t to it (a Wick rotation), and in the path integral the complex numbers become real probabilities. Replace t with the inverse of T (temperature) to get a thermodynamic equation.
A black hole has entropy proportional to the area of its event horizon. A path integral adds up ways spacetime can bend to make a black hole. Wick-rotate the black hole by setting t to it and see that in the imaginary time direction, the black hole periodically returns to its initial state. This periodicity lets us define its temperature and entropy.
Wick-rotating an empty, expanding de Sitter spacetime with a horizon, we find that a de Sitter universe has an entropy. To define it, start at a center, add a surface between the center and the horizon, then shrink it until it reaches the center and disappears, to show that de Sitter entropy is proportional to the horizon area.
Adding radiation and matter to de Sitter spacetime still lets us Wick-rotate the universe. Looking at the expansion history of a realistic class of universes gives us a better equation for cosmic entropy. The calculation for a universe filled with matter and radiation give us a much larger number of microstates, proportional to volume and not area.
Almost all the microstates look like our universe.
AR So much for the holographic universe!
2022 November 17
UK Autumn Statement
BBC News, 1230 UTC
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has presented his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons, revealing tax rises and spending cuts worth billions of pounds aimed at mending UK finances.
AR At first blush, heard live, it sounded good.
Trump Controls Representatives
On January 3, Donald Trump will become the de facto speaker of the House. When Nancy Pelosi passes the gavel to Kevin McCarthy, the power will be in the hands of Trump. From his gilded tropical palace, he will phone dictates to acolytes who do his bidding.
McCarthy will obediently issue blanket approval for House committees to launch a thousand inquisitions. Secretaries of state will be pressured. Biden administration officials will be subpoenaed. Military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine will be squeezed.
After the January 6 committee is disbanded, the House judiciary committee will target the Department of Justice. Trump and his allies will intensify their charges that the justice department is "weaponizing" the law. Trump won't fade away.
AR We need to stay alert for 2 more years.
TRUMP TO RUN
"In order to make America
great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States."
AR Make America
2022 November 16
American democracy had a near-death experience with Donald Trump, and the Conservative party went along with him. The British right slid into sycophantic orbit around Trump, far beyond a basic duty of maintaining transatlantic relations.
The two countries separated by an ocean are culturally dissimilar, even when their politics are in sync. One big difference is that Trump could be removed from office by operation of the normal electoral cycle. Britain is stuck with Brexit as a legal fait accompli.
Within two years of the deal being signed, its author was revealed to be a congenital liar and evicted from Downing Street. But the exposure of Boris Johnson as a serial political fraudster did not undo his biggest fraud.
The pretense that it was anything else is getting harder to sustain even for Tories who keep the Johnsonian faith. While trade realities are battering the economics of Brexit, Vladimir Putin has stripped bare its strategic folly with his war in Ukraine.
The Kremlin pumps money into movements that destabilize western democracies. As a project intended to disrupt the EU, Brexit was its sort of mission. Too many Tories were enjoying the dance to ask who was clapping along or paying the piper.
The British return to diplomatic sobriety is welcome if it means an end to foreign policy drunk-driving. But Tories were at the wheel when the UK was steered into a ditch.
AR Sad but true: ALBION
SLS rocket carrying Orion spacecraft launches on Artemis I flight test from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 2022-11-16, 0147 ET
We live in spacetime. Slicing it up into space and time is merely a useful human convention. We can better understand this by seeing what a unified spacetime implies.
The theory of electromagnetism assigns a special role to the speed of light. To understand this, Albert Einstein came up with a new conception of space and time in his theory known as special relativity.
He posited that the speed of light is an absolute speed limit and that everyone measures that speed to be the same, no matter how they are moving. Special relativity is the theory of a flat spacetime.
In relativity theory, an event is a single point in the universe, specified by locations in both space and time. Think about a journey between events A and B and ask how much time elapses between them.
Time is both a coordinate on spacetime and the duration you experience going from A to B. You can measure the duration by a clock you carry with you. This is the proper time along the path, and it depends on the path you take.
In space, a straight line describes the shortest distance between two points. In spacetime, a straight path yields the longest elapsed time between two events. That flip distinguishes time from space.
A straight path in spacetime is both a straight line in space and a constant velocity of travel. We can go between A and B in a straight line at constant velocity, or we can zip back and forth.
Straight paths in spacetime take the longest possible time. Paths of greater distance take less proper time. Einstein saw that.
AR As clear and simple as can be.
2022 November 15
Earth Hosts 8 Billion Humans
The UN projects that today the human population on Earth will pass 8 billion.
Climate change is a global problem. But many wealthy nations are reinvesting in oil and gas, failing to cut emissions fast enough, and haggling over aid to poor countries.
Since COP26, countries have only promised to do 2% of what is needed to stay on track to keep temperatures within 1.5 K of pre-industrial levels.
A gold rush for new fossil fuel projects is cast as temporary, but humanity must end its addiction to fossil fuels.
Developing countries need $2 trillion annually to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and cope with climate breakdown. Rich countries emit half of all greenhouse gases and have a duty to help.
Earth risks being trapped in fossil-fuel dependence by a rearguard action of big business. The ecological emergency demands radical thinking.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change provides a target to stave off an existential risk to humanity.
AR Too many people.
Charles, 74 today
2022 November 14
The Great Filter
Threats such as nuclear war, climate change, and pandemics could finish off humanity before we discover other intelligent life. This may explain why we have still not met any extraterrestrials.
CalTech astrophysicist Jonathan Jiang et al: "We postulate that an existential disaster may lay in wait as our society advances exponentially toward space exploration, acting as the Great Filter: a phenomenon that wipes out civilizations before they can encounter each other, which may explain the cosmic silence."
Enrico Fermi posed the Fermi Paradox in 1950 when he pondered not meeting space aliens and asked: "Where are they?"
AR I have often had similar thoughts.
Der ranghöchste deutsche Militär hält wegen der russischen Invasion in der Ukraine einen grundlegenden Strategiewechsel der Bundeswehr für notwendig.
Bundeswehr Viersternegeneral Eberhard Zorn: "Angriffe auf Deutschland können potenziell ohne Vorwarnung und mit großer, gegebenenfalls sogar existenzieller, Schadenswirkung erfolgen."
Mit den Leitlinien setzt er die von Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz angekündigte "Zeitenwende" nach dem russischen Einmarsch in der Ukraine konkret um.
AR I think this is a logical outcome.
Poland and Ukraine
Anna Gromada, Krzysztof Zeniuk
Democracies want Ukraine to win. Autocracies want it to lose. But the real world is not so binary. Democracies are divided into English-speaking, western European, and eastern European.
Poland and the Baltic countries want Ukraine to win. This would soothe an old angst. Over the past 600 years, Russia and Poland have waged more than a dozen wars.
Victory in Ukraine would probably spill over into regime change in Belarus. A united region across eastern Europe, with the human and economic capacity of more than 100 million citizens, could offset the dominance of the old Rhineland in the EU.
Kremlin rhetoric treats Ukraine as a repository of Slavic peasant folklore. In fact, Ukraine hosts swathes of unexploited natural resources, a potential for green electricity, fertile soils, a space and aviation industry, and political leaders who command respect across Europe.
Tapping into that potential requires economies of scale, transparent institutions, and capital investments. Curbing corruption and the power of the oligarchs is very much on the agenda of the Zelensky administration. With victory, investment money would flow.
Poland and Ukraine are much poorer today than France and Germany. But the US is already pumping money and technologies into eastern Europe. In return, it expects influence and clarity on China.
Western Europe once had Russian energy, Chinese markets, and American security. Now the first pillar is gone and the second may be the price to pay for the third.
France and Germany currently endorse a policy of strategic autonomy for Europe. Putin has pushed the goal of a Eurasian union stretching from Vladivostok to Lisbon. Both strategies share an aversion to Anglo-Saxon dominance in Europe.
Many Americans seem to hope that a Russia standing on its feet can eventually pivot against China. In eastern Europe, this idea is greeted with horror. It has been tested too many times with Putin.
All major Polish parties support Ukraine. They want to see Ukraine emerge from this war as a star and Poland as the undeclared winner.
AR This perspective looks good to me.
Me, 73 today
2022 Remembrance Sunday
'Putin kaput, glory to Ukraine!'
The Sunday Times
Crowds of euphoric residents lined the streets of Kherson today waving Ukrainian flags as their troops rolled into the city after eight months of brutal Russian occupation.
Kherson was the only provincial capital Russia had seized since the start of the war. Its loss is the most embarrassing defeat for Putin since he began his invasion of Ukraine.
Celebrations broke out across Ukraine on Friday after the Russians began to flee. In his nightly video address President Zelensky hailed the recapture of the city as a "historic day" and promised to restore medicine supplies and communications as soon as possible.
The Russian military presence just across the river poses a continuing danger. Putin's army blew up the only road bridge across the Dnipro to prevent a Ukrainian pursuit.
Retreating Russian forces cut off the power and the water supply. Imposing order on the liberated city is now an urgent priority. Most residents are looking forward to a brighter future.
AR Well timed.
2022 November 12
COP27 Call to Action
The science is devastatingly clear: We have to make progress by the end of this decade. Let's raise both our ambition and speed of our efforts. If we are going to win this fight, every major emitter needs to align with 1.5 C. We can no longer plead ignorance of the consequences of our actions or continue to repeat our mistakes. Everyone has to keep accelerating progress throughout this decisive decade.
AR He may be too old but he says the right things.
The neuromorphic chip NeuRRAM includes millions of memory cells and thousands of hardware neurons to run algorithms. It can run big AI algorithms as well as digital computers but needs hundreds of times less energy.
Resistive RAM analog cells each store multiple values along a continuous range. RRAM integrated on a computing chip can run many matrix computations in parallel. Analog chips suffer variability and noise but can be as accurate as digital chips if the AI algorithms are trained to tolerate noise.
NeuRRAM runs big AI algorithms efficiently. An idea for the future is to use electrical spikes, as in brains, but this may need a new architecture.
AR We need spikes to run the music of consciousness.
2022 November 11
A desperate attempt to keep Sam Bankman-Fried's sprawling cryptocurrency empire afloat has ended in failure after his FTX exchange filed for bankruptcy.
AR No big surprise there.
Quantum hackers could decode many of our present cryptography schemes.
Present schemes rely on an asymmetry between multiplication and factoring. Any computer can quickly multiply two numbers, but it may take ages to factor a big number into its prime constituents. This makes secrets easy to encode but hard to decode.
Factoring is vulnerable to quantum hackers. Lattice cryptography uses another set of mathematical operations that are easy to do but hard to undo.
Imagine Alice has a lattice. She asks Bob to name 10 of its points but gives him just 2 points. Adding or subtracting any 2 points on a lattice gives another point in the lattice, so Bob adds the 2 points or multiplies them by integers and then adds them, or some combination of these, in 8 different ways to get 10 points.
Alice now gives Bob the same 2 starting points and asks him if some (x, y) is on the same lattice. To answer, Bob needs to find the combination that gives (x, y), which is much harder. That asymmetry underlies lattice cryptography.
Lattice cryptography has countless nuances and may have a fatal flaw.
AR This seems promising.
2022 November 10
Kherson, City of Death
RF wants to turn Kherson into a "city of death". Ru-military mines everything they can: apartments, sewers. Artillery on the left bank plans to turn the city into ruins. This is what "Russian world" looks like: came, robbed, celebrated, killed "witnesses", left ruins and left.
AR Clear case of good vs bad.
In Conscious, Annaka Harris examines the illusory nature of the self: "The idea that 'I' am the ultimate source of my desires and actions begins to crumble .. It seems much more accurate to say that consciousness is along for the ride."
On conscious causation: "Consciousness seems to play a role in behavior .. the fact that my thoughts are about the experience of consciousness suggests that there is a feedback loop of sorts and that consciousness is affecting my brain processing."
On panpsychism: "Ascribing some level of consciousness to plants or inanimate matter is not the same as ascribing to them human minds with wishes and intentions like our own .. it seems quite hard for us to drop the intuition that consciousness equals complex thought .. if a version of panpsychism is correct, everything will still appear to us and behave exactly as it already does."
On a challenge to psychism: "For many scientists and philosophers, the combination problem presents the biggest obstacle to accepting any description of reality that includes consciousness .. the obstacle we face here .. seems to be a case of confusing consciousness with the concept of a self."
On merging brains: "If two human brains were connected, both people might feel as if the content of their consciousness had simply expanded, with each person feeling a continuous transformation from the content of one person to the whole of the two, until the connection was more or less complete."
We consider the inconceivable impossible, but we can expand the possible until it becomes real.
AR I enjoyed reading the book(let).
The New York Times
US midterm election results, 2022-11-10, 1000 UTC
33 years ago today
2022 November 9
Trump Republicans Fail
Donald Trump is "livid" and screaming at advisers after the failure of his chosen candidates in the midterm elections, according to reports in the United States.
AR Great news!
Putin Abandons Kherson
The Kremlin has ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from the occupied city of Kherson. Ukrainian troops were steadily advancing toward them.
AR More great news!
2022 November 8
Ukraine is determined to resist the Russian invasion. Putin cannot win and must give up on his attempt to do so. Ukraine cannot accept a Russian victory.
Russia does not admit it is the aggressor or is obliged to withdraw from occupied territory. A grand bargain is unlikely while both sides hope they can improve their positions. Even if the outlines of a deal could be designed and there was sufficient goodwill, turning it into a treaty would be hard.
Putin has no interest in bringing the war to a quick end if this means failure to achieve his key objectives. Any settlement he would accept is not one that Kyiv or the West could agree to. For him, the issue of Crimea is not even up for discussion. He also refuses to discuss the legal status of the four provinces he has annexed. He demands that Zelensky accepts they are forever Russian.
Putin needs to avoid defeat. If he admits failure, his judgement will be shown to be flawed and he will be vulnerable. To stay in power, he needs Russia to stay in the war.
Any deal will be a loss for Putin. Any that ends the fighting will be followed by a reckoning. So long as the war continues, he is protected by patriotism, wartime censorship, and control of dissent. Without the war, his folly will be exposed.
If Ukraine is denied victory, Putin can hope it will buckle under fire. He only wants peace on his terms. A peace that acknowledges Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity begs the question of why he fought the war.
Ukraine can only offer a deal that requires Moscow to withdraw from occupied territory. This may need a change at the top in Moscow.
AR We all need a change at the top in Moscow.
A Strange Magnetar
The star 4U 0142+61, nicknamed 4U, is a magnetar about 123 Em away. Studies with the NASA Imaging X‑ray Polarimetry Explorer find properties suggesting 4U may have a solid surface:
• The light is very weakly polarized, but a gas would transmit mostly polarized light;
• There is a sudden π/2 switch in the polarization angle, as predicted for X‑rays from a solid surface
into a space empty but for EM fields.
Strong surface gravity may put the shell in a plastic state between solid and fluid. It is probably made of crystals of iron and other heavy elements, their atoms stretched by the EM fields.
AR Cue for a sci-fi novel.
Kohei Saito says degrowth is
the only way to save society
from a crisis of inequality
and impending environ-
2022 November 7
US Midterm Elections
The New York Times
US midterm elections are often seen as a referendum on the party in power. But voters need to consider the intentions of the party that hopes to regain power.
The next Congress will count the electoral votes in the presidential election in 2024. Some Republicans sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Some Republicans embrace violent extremism. The 2022 elections are an opportunity for Americans to defend the integrity of US elections.
Another civil war?
Barbara F Walter
A civil war could happen again in the US. Militias spread around the country would fight to weaken the federal government and intimidate minorities and opponents.
A civil war starts when sustained violence by extremists has become the norm. Two factors raise the risk of civil war: ethnic factionalism and anocracy, when a government is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic.
A group may resort to violence when it was once politically dominant but is losing power. Whites will be a minority of the population by around 2044. The result will be increasing resentment and fear at what lies ahead.
US democracy declined between 2016 and 2020. Since January 6, 2021, the US has failed to strengthen its democracy. The Democratic party cannot reform the political system, and the Republicans no longer want to.
Heading toward civil war
The US is headed toward civil war. The US is vulnerable because trust in its institutions is in freefall. The gulf between the political system and the popular will is widening.
The US electoral system depends on good faith. Refusal to accept electoral outcomes can result in a contested election. The right is prepared for this eventuality.
The US legal system has devolved from a truly national institution to a spoil of partisan war. This is a classic prelude to civil war. Neither party can fix America.
Another American conflagration
Christopher Sebastian Parker
America is rushing headlong into another civil war. The first civil war turned on racism. Throughout history, US political identity has been driven by positions on race.
Today, 4 in 5 Republican voters are white. Many want to take drastic measures to maintain white supremacy. Democrats see MAGA Republicans as an existential threat.
Violence results from an election that can shift power, partisan division based on identity, a winner-take-all voting system, and a lax approach to violence. America has them all.
A civil war with terrorism, guerrilla war, and ethnic cleansing will be waged from sea to shining sea. Racism will lead to another American conflagration.
AR Soviet Union gone, United States going ..
Highway to Climate Hell
We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing. Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the gas pedal. We can sign a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact. Only a narrow shaft of light remains. The global climate fight will be won or lost in this decade.
AR Hope is not lost.
⊛ Sayed Sheasha/REUTERS
UN climate summit COP27 begins in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on November 6
2022 November 6
A new UN report says the past eight years were the eight hottest ever recorded. The internationally agreed 1.5 K limit for global heating is now "barely within reach" and the world is deep into the climate crisis.
Rcord high greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are driving sea level and ice melting to new highs and supercharging extreme weather worldwide. Every year since 2016 has been one of the warmest on record.
AR This must have first priority.
US Midterm Elections
Democrats will crash and burn in the US midterm elections. Expect Republican gains on Tuesday and legislative gridlock into 2024. Joe Biden will be unable to champion democracy worldwide against aggressive authoritarianism.
Republicans warn there will be no "blank check" for Kyiv. A Republican Senate candidate: "I think we're at the point where we've given enough money in Ukraine .. The Europeans need to step up."
AR Without US solidarity, the UK is sunk.
The global number of refugees is set to exceed a quarter of a billion in coming years due to climate change and conflict. The West enacts policies aimed at stemming refugees. The UK numbers are straining public consent.
China and Russia regard our openness to refugees and illegal migrants as our most acute strategic vulnerability. Human rights require social stability and other rare goods. We need to make free societies more robust.
Reversing Brexit is in our own interests
Brexit is obviously failing in its key aim of keeping foreigners out. Without EU cooperation, the south coast is wide open. Huge sectors of our economy are short staffed. Tens of thousands of refugees await processing. Reversing Brexit is in our own interests.
Britain is on a highway to hell
The big UK domestic event of late autumn is a brutal package of tax rises and spending cuts expected on November 17. The Bank of England says Britons will still be worse off in 2025 than they were before Covid. Many voters already think they are on a highway to hell.
AR Fortress UK won't work.
2022 November 5
Germany and China
During his visit, German chancellor Olaf Scholz prompted Chinese president Xi Jinping to say China rejects "the threat or use of nuclear weapons" with regard to Ukraine. China has never positioned itself so clearly. Russian warlord Vladimir Putin can see this as a red line.
After this first visit trip by a G7 head of government to the People's Republic since the beginning of the pandemic, a Chinese statement said "bilateral relations will continue to move in the right direction" as long as both sides respect each other and seek common ground.
Shenzhen Daily: "Germany is trying to prove that it will no longer be a lackey of the United States."
Global Times: "The US is not in a position to dictate Sino-German economic cooperation."
Xi, Scholz to expand pie
China and Germany have reaffirmed their commitment to stabilizing and consolidating bilateral ties as well as promoting China−Europe cooperation, and vowed to expand the "pie" of their shared interests and work together to uphold regional and global peace and security.
On the Ukraine crisis, President Xi Jinping urged the international community to support every effort to help peacefully resolve the crisis, oppose using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, and make efforts to ensure the stability of industrial and supply chains.
AR So far so good.
Higgs and Our Universe
The Higgs boson could help us discover new physics. In the standard model, elementary particles derive their masses from their interactions with the Higgs field. This includes the Higgs, so deviations from expectations would hint at new physics.
We can probe this via Higgs boson pair production. The LHC produces Higgs pairs at too low a rate to help, but if the standard model is wrong, so too may be its rate of pair production. If extra dimensions of spacetime exist, Higgs pair production could be enhanced.
The extra dimensions could explain the enormous differences in strength between gravity and the other forces. In the theory of warped extra dimensions, there are two branes, one our 3D world and the other where gravitons are unconfined. Gravitons permeate the bulk space between the branes, diluting gravity and warping the bulk space.
Producing more double Higgs bosons at the LHC could provide evidence of gravitons. Massive gravitons would decay to Higgs pairs and then to other particles.
Higgs pair production may also offer a window into the eventual fate of our universe. The vacuum state of our universe teems with virtual particle−antiparticle pairs popping in and out of existence. The Higgs field has a non-zero vacuum expectation value, filling the vacuum with Higgs bosons.
The Higgs potential is shaped like the bottom of a wine bottle. In our universe, a marble dropped into it rolls down to a spot that may not be stable. Quantum fluctuations could tunnel our universe into a different state, with new physics.
AR All this seems rather speculative.
Science Photo Library
Discovering Alien Life
When Lisa Kaltenegger was asked to check some exoplanets that may have liquid water on their surfaces, she started running climate models and found they may well have water. This year, she was asked to help understand the planet SPECULOOS‑2c.
Our best chance of finding other life in the cosmos may be to detect biosignature gases in exoplanetary atmospheres. With the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) now in service, we can try.
To sniff an exoplanetary atmosphere, we look for planets that transit in front of their star. During a transit, some of the starlight shines through the planetary atmosphere and changes the stellar spectrum. Spectral analysis reveals the chemistry.
Discoveries of rocky planets with the potential for liquid water remained scarce until the Kepler era. Kepler showed they are common, but the ones it found were too far away for good studies.
JWST would see only tiny signals from atmospheric gases during each transit, so good results would take years. But we can seek Earths in close orbits around red dwarf stars, where atmospheric signals are not lost in starlight and transits are more frequent.
In 2017, we found seven rocky planets around the red dwarf star TRAPPIST‑1. This year, we found the SPECULOOS‑2 system. These stars are close, dim, and red. They each have multiple rocky planets that transit.
Kaltenegger uses a climate model to analyze the evolution of alien atmospheres. Running it for SPECULOOS‑2c lets us predict what JWST might see. JWST will also view the TRAPPIST‑1 planets.
AR We're making good progress.
2022 November 4
Save Britain or Save Brexit
Britain needs a stable and competent government that restores standards and integrity in public life and offers direction and purpose.
Britain is now lagging at the bottom of the league table of G7 economies in growth, productivity, investment, and real wages. The mounting effects of Brexit are becoming clearer.
The prime minister must put the UK need to work with the EU before any desire to seek confrontation with Europe at every turn.
He cannot confront the challenges facing Britain without facing up to our economic and trade choices and the importance of building a stable relationship with the EU.
He cannot make Brexit work without revisiting the terms on which we left the EU. A hard Brexit has had devastating effects on British trade, competitiveness, prices, and growth.
He cannot lift UK trade and growth without forming a better relationship with the EU. UK trade in goods with Europe has become too cumbersome, too costly, too bureaucratic, and too slow, and is becoming a major drag on our growth rate.
Growth forecasts for Britain in coming years indicate no improvement. Spending on public services will be further squeezed. We will not be able to defend ourselves as we would like. We will lose influence in the world.
Labour has let the Conservatives rule without effective challenge for most of the last decade. Labour is not going to reopen the Brexit decision, but nor should it be held hostage by it.
We need to turn the page and begin the next chapter in our national story.
AR From a speech in Oxford on October 27.
BoE says UK in recession:
"very challenging outlook"
2022 November 3
China Loses America
Thomas L Friedman
President Xi Jinping has reversed the steady integration of China's economy with the West. Our world will become less prosperous, less integrated, and less geopolitically stable. Four signs:
1 When China joined the WTO, Chinese industries copied or stole IP from Western firms that built factories in China. The firms have responded by going ABC: "Anywhere but China."
2 President Xi has been elected to a third term on a platform pushing Marxism and ideology over markets and pragmatism.
3 A more aggressive Chinese foreign policy is trying to dominate the South China Sea, frightening Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India, and Taiwan.
4 Instead of importing Western vaccines against Covid, China is relying on lockdowns and the new tools of a surveillance state.
Global supply chains require trust between partners. Xi has lost it.
AR Sad − US politics is volatile.
Germany Woos China
German chancellor Olaf Scholz flies to Beijing this week. He says China is going for national autonomy and security: "If China changes, our dealings with China have to change too."
Last week, Scholz approved a deal to let Chinese shipping company Cosco buy a 25% stake in three terminals in Hamburg. This week, he flies with a delegation of CEOs from big German companies.
His government is still unsure about its China strategy. China expert Tim Rühlig: "Is it about a rivalry between fundamentally opposed political and economic beliefs? .. How long it is until there will be a major military conflict involving China?"
Goods worth €246 billion were traded between Germany and China in 2021. Germany relies on China for key raw materials for the digital economy and renewable energy technologies.
AR Realpolitik in action.
2022 November 2
New climate reports remind us that greenhouse gas concentrations are rising.
The World Meteorological Organization says atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane hit a record high in 2021 and continue to rise in 2022.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide has caused about two-thirds of global warming since 1750. Methane registered the largest single-year increase since records began 40 years ago.
The greenhouse gases are having increasingly severe climate impacts: 2022 brought extreme heatwaves, storm surges, and severe flooding to many parts of the world.
Scientists say that of 35 planetary vital signs, 16 are at record extremes and flashing red on the climate dashboard. They say we face a climate emergency.
Two UN reports confirm we are still on course to exceed the Paris Agreement target of an average global rise of 1.5 K or less. Climate scientists say any warming above 1.5 K risks triggering severe and irreversible changes to ecological systems.
The UN says existing national plans would see carbon emissions fall by 3.6% by 2030 compared with 2019 levels. We need a 43% drop to meet the 1.5 K target. The plans put us on course for about 2.5 K of warming.
At COP26, participants agreed to submit bolder proposals to cut emissions within a year to meet the Paris Agreement goals. But only 26 of them have done so. Together the updates cut 2030 emissions by less than 1%.
The COP27 hosts will ask countries to cut emissions faster.
AR One is not optimistic.
2022 All Saints Day
Growing up among mathematicians helped me develop a resilience for solving problems. I started to like mathematics in university. When I started graduate work with Yakov Sinai, who studied probability, the first paper he gave me to read involved physics.
I came to the United States right after getting my PhD from Moscow State University in 1991. I was not a very successful graduate student. But I had the resilience to continue, and I finished my PhD with a total of seven papers.
I study models that govern the behavior of electrons in different materials and environments. Models with quasi-periodicity, where something that locally looks periodic has behavior that may look chaotic at larger scales, are amenable to rigorous analysis.
I have problems with the proposed California math framework. A fundamental understanding in all the pre-calculus courses is hugely important for those who want to pursue STEM. American education needs fixing.
AR Professor Jitomirskaya was awarded the inaugural OAL Prize earlier this year for her work in mathematical physics.
Taylor Swift has become the first artist in history to claim every slot in the top 10 of the US singles chart. Her new album Midnights is the fastest-selling release in 2022. She tweeted: "10 out of 10 of the Hot 100??? On my 10th album??? I AM IN SHAMBLES."
AR ♥ ♥ ♥
⊛ David John Faulkner
Flying Scotsman passes Corfe Castle on the Swanage line
Conservative MP for South Dorset, wealthy landowner, and former army officer Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax:
"The Swanage railway plays a vital and integral part in promoting tourism .. Those romantic days of steam
are played out every day on this scenic stretch of line."
2022 October 31
The Brexit Lie
Rishi Sunak promises to govern with openness, integrity, and professionalism. He aims to put economic stability at the heart of his agenda. He should start by confronting the Big Lie that Brexit is good for the UK.
Sunak understands spreadsheets and statistics. He must know that while Covid‑19 and the Ukraine war have inflicted great economic damage on the UK, Brexit is also responsible for the profound economic crisis it now faces.
Leaving the EU has greatly complicated our trade with 450 million consumers just across the Channel. It has disrupted supply chains, deterred investment, caused labour shortages, created whole new layers of red tape, and more.
Read the business pages. Ask anyone in UK automotive, financial, hospitality, care, health, agricultural, or fishing industries. Consult the people who run small businesses, university chiefs, artists, and scientists.
The OECD expects the UK to have the lowest growth of any major economy except Russia next year. The OBR believes Brexit will reduce Britain's long‑run GDP by 4%. The Brexit tumour is deadly.
AR Im Westminster nichts neues ..
3.2 gigapixel digicam for
Vera C Rubin Observatory
2022 October 30
The Liberal Faith
Faith in liberal democracy is wilting.
Pluralism in values is the hallmark of liberal democracy. Liberal democracies bring morality within the purview of reason rather than revealed truth. This is about moral autonomy.
Unlike dictators, liberal leaders relinquish power peacefully, encompass institutional constraints, and defend the right of free people to disparage what leaders say.
We live in a great nation. Unless we acknowledge the progress and sacrifices made by so many, we commit a grievous crime not merely against these pioneers, but ourselves.
Most young people in the UK would prefer a dictator to a democratic leader. Surveys in continental Europe and the US reveal similar trends.
We are living through a period of great historical blindness. The liberal West is the only check on the virus of absolutism spreading throughout the world.
Without faith, civilizations die.
AR Good argument.
The Sunday Times
Vladimir Putin has made veneration of the army a central pillar of Russian national identity.
Mark Galeotti explores the wars Russia has fought in since the end of the Soviet Union.
The first began in 1994 to prevent Chechnya seceding from Russia. It ended in humiliation for the Kremlin. The war was brutal and killed tens of thousands of civilians. Putin began a second bloody war against Chechnya in 1999.
The conflicts revealed shortcomings in the Russian military. Since then, reformers have supplemented conscripts by volunteers and updated equipment. But tanks and artillery remain the mainstay of the force, with logistics neglected.
Putin's brief war against Georgia in 2008 ended in victory but revealed the need for further reform. His seizure in 2014 of the Crimea from Ukraine went smoothly, but his later backing of Donbas separatists proved a hard slog.
Russian military involvement in 2015 in Syria in aid of its president, Bashar al‑Assad was a success. Putin propped up his ally at minimal cost while showcasing Russian arms.
The war against Ukraine has not gone to plan. Galeotti: "It is impossible to overstate just how devastating the impact has been. Arguably, 20 years of high-spending military reform was wasted in 20 days."
Putin wanted to turn Russia into a modern Sparta. But Russia still lags badly behind.
AR Galeotti's new book.
2022 October 29
Charles Q Choi
Neuromorphic microchip components spike above a certain rate of input signals. By only rarely firing spikes, they shuffle around less data than typical artificial neural networks.
Optical components can be used to connect neurons. Waveguides can connect each neuron with thousands of others. Superconducting nanowire devices can detect single photons.
Photonic neural computing needs optical cavities that can entrap light for long spans of time. Making such cavities and linking them with waveguides on an integrated microchip is tricky, so researchers made hybrid circuitry that converted the output signals from a detector to a 2 ps EM pulse forming a single fluxon in a SQUID network.
SQUIDs consist of one or more Josephson junctions. If the current through a junction exceeds a threshold, the SQUID emits fluxons. When triggered, a single-photon detector emits fluxons that collect as current in the SQUID loop. This stored current records how many times a neuron spiked.
Integrating these components creates a superconducting synapse that can spike at rates exceeding 10 MHz while consuming roughly 33 aJ per event. Human neurons have a maximum average spike rate of about 340 Hz and consume roughly 10 fJ per synaptic event.
The output of the devices can be varied to interface with a range of systems. The next step is to combine the synapses with on-chip photon sources to create integrated superconducting neurons.
AR Thousands of times faster and far less power-hungry − this is the future.
2022 October 28
UK: A Poor Country in Western Europe
UK living standards and wages have fallen behind those of Western Europe.
After WW2, the UK economy grew slower than those of much of continental Europe. By the 1970s, the Brits were debating why they were falling behind. In the 1980s, markets were deregulated to favor the financial sector. From the 1990s into the 2000s, the UK roared ahead, with London leading the way. Britain became the world's banker.
When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, it hit hard. The British government pursued a policy of austerity, fretting about debt rather than productivity or aggregate demand. The results were disastrous. Conservative pols blamed bureaucrats in Brussels, immigrants, and asylum seekers. A cohort of older voters demanded Brexit, and they got it.
In the past 30 years, the UK government economy chose finance over industry and austerity over investment. Voters chose a closed and poorer economy over an open and richer one. The predictable results are falling wages and low productivity growth.
The UK now has some of the worst productivity statistics of any major economy. What was once a powerful global empire voted to reduce global access to trade and talent. Since Brexit, immigration, exports, and foreign investment have all declined.
Outside London, the UK is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe.
A new period of conflict
Britain is drifting into a state of chronic emergency. Starting this winter, living standards will fall for most of the population.
A bailout set the precedent for a tide of funny money after the crash of 2008. The market continued to devise opaque and risky products affecting trillions of dollars of assets. Any policy program that depends on economic growth will be stymied.
Friedrich Hayek denounced conservatives for their embrace of politics as the art of the possible and their reverence for the past. He preached continuing progress. If sections of humanity are left behind, so be it.
Centrists do not renounce the cult of the market. But their task will be averting mass impoverishment and social breakdown.
AR Profoundly saddening.
2022 October 27
Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record High
Atmospheric levels of all three greenhouse gases have reached record highs, says the World Meteorological Organization.
The WMO reports carbon dioxide concentrations in 2021 at 415.7 parts per million, methane at 1908 parts per billion (ppb), and nitrous oxide at 334.5 ppb. These are respectively 149%, 262%, and 124% of pre-industrial levels.
WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas: "The continuing rise in concentrations of the main heat-trapping gases, including the record acceleration in methane levels, shows we are heading in the wrong direction."
Carbon emissions from energy to peak in 2025
Global carbon emissions from energy will peak in 2025 thanks to massively increased government spending on clean fuels, says the International Energy Agency. The IEA calls this a "historic turning point" in the transition away from fossil fuels.
The war in Ukraine has prompted a global energy crisis. IEA executive director Fatih Birol says this will accelerate the clean energy transition. Planned investments in green energy in response to the crisis will lead to demand for polluting fossil fuels peaking this decade.
Under the new plans, investment in low-carbon energy will rise to $2 trillion a year by 2030, an increase of more than 50% from today. But annual clean energy investment would have to reach $4 trillion by 2030 to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
IEA analysts say current government policies will still lead to global temperatures rising by 2.5 K, with catastrophic climate impacts. Scientists say governments are not doing enough to prevent climate disaster.
AR That extra kelvin will bring social horrors.
2022 October 26
Quantum Physics and Observation
Experiments indicate that physical entities do not have standalone existence but are products of observation. This is relevant to our understanding of reality.
Classical physics describes the objective and deterministic evolution of a unique material world. It keeps the observer out of the description. Quantum physics challenges this commitment: Bell's theorem challenges the assumption that measurements always reveal pre-existing properties of the world.
We may ask whether, and if so, how, the first-person perspective is an irreducible part of quantum physics, and what this says about the paradigm of materialism.
Essentia Foundation's conference this year is organized in collaboration with the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, Vienna, home to 2022 Nobel Laureate Anton Zeilinger. The online conference is free, with no need for registration.
November 17−18, 1400−1745 CEST
Watch the conference live
Being and consciousness
Phenomenology is the study of the objects of consciousness as they appear to individual awareness. Phenomenologists seek to understand the inner world of our feelings, attitudes, sensations, and the meanings we attach to them.
Edmund Husserl is the founding figure of phenomenology. For Husserl, phenomenology was based on the intentionality of consciousness.
Phenomenology aims to understand our lived experience. Mental phenomena appear in awareness, but we usually claim ownership and responsibility for them.
Consciousness enables experience to create meaning and understanding. Mind comprises thoughts, sensations, and perceptions, all in consciousness. We see the mind as reflecting body and world, but attention brings form into existence out of infinite consciousness.
There is no scientific evidence for the existence of consciousness. Reductive materialism is the dominant paradigm in science.
Quantum theory suggests no object exists unless it is observed: Being and consciousness are one.
AR I hope to enjoy the conference.
Bright Space Explosion
On October 9, we saw the biggest cosmic explosion in history. It was a gamma-ray burst from a massive dying star as it collapsed into a black hole spurting powerful jets of energy.
This "brightest of all time" (BOAT) event oversaturated the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and may even have caused our ionosphere to swell in size for several hours.
The BOAT occurred about 23 Ym away and its jet was likely pointed toward us. In China, the LHAASO saw 5,000 high-energy photons from it, many times more than usual for GRBs.
An 18 TeV photon should have been lost on the way to us. Maybe an axion-like particle flew free until it came to our galaxy, where magnetic fields turned it into a photon.
If this photon is linked to the BOAT, it may be evidence of new physics.
⊛ Aaron Chown / PA Media
King Charles greets Rishi Sunak, October 25
2022 October 25
I know Rishi Sunak well. He represents my former constituency of Richmond, Yorkshire, and I struggle to recall anyone with stronger attributes of intelligence, thoughtfulness, and self-discipline.
Rishi is hugely conscious of the need to combine economic competence with compassion. He will not embark on risks without seeking all the advice he can get. He and his ministerial team can improve the health and stability of British democracy.
The truth about Brexit
Rishi Sunak must govern in the national interest. Since Brexit, business investment has been growing in all G7 countries except the UK. Those who backed Brexit dare not admit their misjudgment.
US commentator David Frum: "The problem with the UK Tory party is not the personal defects of the captain. The problem is that you're not eligible for the captaincy unless you agree it was a brilliant idea to scupper the ship in 2016."
Sunak must move back toward the great trading bloc just over the water. No one voted to leave the single market or the customs union. We must seek to rejoin them.
Rejoin the single market and customs union
The UK has a tradition of strong democracy and fact-based debate. Brexit changed this. Our government entered a game of lies and largely ignored the facts.
Years of lies, policy blunders, and incompetence have damaged the UK's global reputation. Rishi Sunak's government must focus on rebuilding it.
A good policy option is to rejoin the single market and customs union. It was the biggest lie of them all to imagine the UK could replace the economic upside of being part of the most advanced free-trade zone in the world.
The EU invites the UK to join a grouping of European countries that don't want to be part of the EU but do want to benefit from its single market.
A wary Europe greets Sunak
For many Europeans, the only surprise of the British political and economic mayhem of the past few weeks is the silence about its real cause. Brexit is the elephant in the room.
A European leader: "Brexit was based on an act of immense stupidity. It was sold by politicians who promised a sort of great Singapore but voted for by people who were unhappy about globalization."
Brexit ambitions clashed with real-world conditions: a pandemic, the rise of protectionism, tensions with China, and the war in Ukraine. Finally, the financial markets took back control.
German liberal MP Alexander Lambsdorff: "This is what happens when you cut your country off from your biggest and most important market. Brexit devours its children."
If Rishi Sunak makes the right choices, the shock of the war in Ukraine could push the UK and the EU to resume talks and work through their differences.
AR Let's wait and see how he handles UK−EU relations.
UK: Rishi 4 PM
BBC News, 1404 BST
Sir Graham Brady: "We have received one valid nomination. Rishi Sunak is therefore elected leader of the Conservative party."
Penny Mordaunt pulled out of the contest just before the close of nominations. Boris Johnson decided not to stand last night.
UK economy 'frankly doomed' by Brexit
Billionaire businessman Guy Hands accuses Tories of putting the UK "on a path to be the sick man of Europe" and predicts a UK economy of higher taxes and interest rates and fewer social services.
The founder and chair of the private equity firm Terra Firma, a longtime Tory supporter, said the party needs to start "admitting some of the mistakes they have made over the last six years, which have frankly put this country on a path to be the sick man of Europe."
Hands said Liz Truss had tried to follow the "dream" of Brexit and a "low-tax, low-benefit economy" but: "Once you accept that you can't actually do that, the Brexit that was done is completely hopeless and will only drive Britain into a disastrous economic state."
Hands called for the next prime minister to renegotiate Brexit: "Without that the economy is frankly doomed."
Admit the lies of Brexit
Believers in extreme Thatcherism were convinced it could be introduced once Brexit was complete and Britain had removed itself from the rules of the European single market.
The only way for the UK to compete on the world stage outside the EU is by becoming a European Singapore. Many Conservatives dream of such an economy. But the democratic path there is far from easy in a UK where only a tiny minority support the libertarian right.
All the Conservative party can do is to try to make the best of a bad job and get the books to balance to bring interest costs and inflation down before the next election.
Prior to Brexit, I predicted it would turn Britain into a country torn apart by high taxes, social unrest, strikes, low productivity, and poor social services. Sadly, this gloomy scenario is becoming reality. Brexit was about introducing a libertarian agenda to help the ultra‑rich.
The world has changed since 2016. Tories can now change direction and negotiate a revised Brexit. Done soon, this might put the UK on the path to recovery.
Sunak is a realist
Timothy Garton Ash
Prime minister Rishi Sunak can put an end to Brexitism. Over the past eight years, Britain has sunk from pragmatic Eurosceptism to the soft Brexit proposed by Theresa May, to the hard Brexit of Boris Johnson, and thence to the fantasy Brexit of Liz Truss.
Even before the 2016 vote, the UK had a chronic productivity problem, excessive reliance on the financial sector, and a major deficit in training and skills. The Brexit effect is now visible. On many indicators, the UK economy has done worse than any other in the G7.
Sunak is a realist, putting solid public finances and market credibility first. He knows that in challenging economic circumstances, you lower barriers to trading with your largest single market. He can kill the Truss bill to scrap all ex‑EU regulations next year.
AR Good news for Diwali.
Wareham Forest, Dorset, 2022-10-23
2022 October 23
The United Kingdom is a great country, but we face a profound economic crisis. That's why I am standing to be Leader of the Conservative party and your next prime minister. I want to fix our economy, unite party, and deliver for our country.
The Tory leadership race
Rishi Sunak has by far the most support among MPs. There are questions about the true level of support for Boris Johnson. A new prime minister could be installed as soon as tomorrow afternoon.
A horror scenario
A not unlikely scenario is Johnson gets 100 just. Mordaunt drops out. Most of her MPs go to Sunak giving him close to roughly twice as many as Johnson in final indicative vote of MPs. If Johnson then wins among members with big majority of MPs not wanting him, it is utter chaos.
The cure for Tory ills
Social change often happens through herd psychology. This might shine some light on the strange contagion spreading through the Tory party.
The underlying cause of this insanity is Brexit, a utopian vision that became all things to all people. As attempts to enact the idea have failed, everyone feels betrayed.
The reputation of the Tory party has gone up in flames. Newspapers around the world were tempted to mock us on their front pages. Brexit Britain has become a punchline.
The best way for the Tory party to show it retains the capacity to serve the public interest would be to call a general election.
AR What a mess.
National Rejoin March, Parliament Square, London, October 22
2022 October 22
Recent experiments have mobilized sensitive physics instruments to test the idea that quantum possibilities collapse into a single classical reality. The experiments find no evidence of the effects predicted by simple collapse models.
Physical collapse models aim to resolve a central dilemma of quantum theory. A wave function lets us predict the various possible outcomes of measurements made on an object and the probability of observing any one of them in an experiment.
If many measurements are made on objects prepared in the same state, the wave function correctly predicts the statistical distribution of outcomes. But we have no way of knowing what the outcome of any single measurement will be, only probabilities.
Giancarlo Ghirardi, Alberto Rimini, and Tullio Weber suggested a quantum system is constantly prodded to jump spontaneously into an observable state. A small system stays in superposition for a long time; bigger objects collapse into a classical state almost instantly. Continuous spontaneous localization (CSL) models are similar.
Roger Penrose and Lajos Diósi independently suggested gravity may cause the collapse: A quantum object in a superposition of locations feels a gravitational interaction between the locations, warping spacetime in many ways at once and forcing a collapse.
Collapse models make observable predictions. If a background perturbation provokes collapse, all particles interact with it, causing something like Brownian motion. Current collapse models suggest this motion is tiny.
If a particle is electrically charged, motion generates electromagnetic Bremsstrahlung. The particle should emit a faint stream of photons, predicted to be in the X‑ray range. Detectors in neutrino experiments can detect a CSL signature.
A team used the IGEX neutrino experiment to test the Diósi−Penrose model. The team saw no emission at a sensitivity level ruling out the simplest model and placed strong bounds on the parameters for various CSL models.
AR Reassuring to know. The models were conceptual hacks.
Higgs Boson Width
The LHC CMS collaboration has made the sharpest estimate yet of the "width" ΔE of the Higgs boson: ΔE ≈ 3.2 MeV. Quantum uncertainty implies that ΔE Δt ≥ ℏ/2. Hence the Higgs boson has a measured minimum average lifetime Δt of around 100 ys, a hundred yoctoseconds.
AR An impressive technical achievement.
⊛ Beth Garrabrant
Taylor Swift's new album Midnights drops on October 21
Taylor Swift focuses on the problem of falling in love when you're a famous person with self-esteem issues.
She asks: "Did you hear my covert narcissism wrapped up as altruism?"
She recalls a dream where her future daughter-in-law murders her for her money and then how she broke
her first boyfriend's heart because he was a nice guy and she was a fame-hungry whirlwind of dysfunction.
Swift: "No one wanted to play with me as a little kid, so I've been scheming like a criminal ever since
to make them love me and make it seem effortless."
♥ ♥ ♥
2022 October 21
UK: A Bleak Legacy
Liz Truss bowed to the inevitable. She can point to no significant achievements in office.
Truss was repeatedly warned that her unfunded tax cuts were coming at the wrong time, would pour fuel on the inflationary fire, and risked a crisis of market confidence. In her recklessness, she showed economic illiteracy and political incompetence.
The legacy confronting her successor is bleak. Britain is humbled on the world stage and assailed by the financial markets. The economy is on the brink of recession.
Conservatives must put the national interest first. The priority must be to reverse the damage. The party cannot foist on us another prime minister lacking the skills to do the job.
Conservative MPs are on course for a mass cull at the next election.
Shattering UK credibility
The last six weeks have trashed not only the UK's economic standing but also its political stability. No one voted for the destruction of a proud reputation for fiscal responsibility and institutional stewardship.
The prospect of yet another Conservative prime minister chosen without a general election ignores not only the UK's growing democratic deficit but also the lack of competence displayed by its woeful government.
The Tory party has shown itself inept, riven with factionalism, contemptuous of the rule of law, and exhausted of credible ideas. It should not continue in power without a new mandate from voters.
A global laughingstock
The British Conservative party was credited for centuries with good sense, financial sobriety, and cautious pragmatism. Despised by progressive elites and allergic to ideology, the party was home for the boring middle.
The Conservatives now stand for chaos. It was foolish to suppose that Liz Truss could sack the most senior Treasury official, reinvent the laws of economic management, and defy the financial markets.
A chronic crisis of governance has reduced the UK to a global laughingstock. Conservatives chose Truss even though she was obviously not up to the job.
Like the Republicans in the United States, the Conservatives have become a party of monomaniacs, incompetents, and ideologues.
AR Call a general election now.
2022 October 20
UK: Liz Truss Resigns as PM
The Guardian, 1335 BST
Liz Truss has resigned as prime minister after just 45 days in office. Her announcement follows an evaporation of her political authority that saw her crash the markets, lose two key ministers, and lose the confidence of almost all her own MPs.
Tory MP Ruth Edwards says her colleagues were "in tears" in the run-up to last night's fracking vote after being forced to choose between voting to lose the whip or voting against a manifesto commitment: "The trust between the parliamentary party and the prime minister no longer exists. You can only pull a stunt like that once. And you can't work as a team if the foot soldiers are treated with contempt by the general."
Last night, whips threatened Tory MPs with losing the whip if they voted with Labour on an anti-fracking motion. A minister wrongly said it was no longer a confidence vote, so many abstained. The chief whip resigned. After midnight, the media were told it was a confidence vote after all. The chief whip had un-resigned. MPs were left clueless.
At PMQ on Wednesday, Truss directly contradicted her new chancellor and said the "triple lock" on the state pension was safe. News broke that one of her most trusted and senior aides was suspended after a toxic briefing war. Truss then sacked her home secretary Suella Braverman following an argument over migration policy.
Truss has destroyed Brexitism
Liz Truss may well have killed off the vision of a low tax, low regulation society where the richest are freed to unleash their awesome talents and make themselves even richer.
Trussonomics slashed taxes on the top 1% to unleash the animal spirits of the free market. Financial markets recoiled from the plan. They could see no sign of how Truss hoped to pay for it.
Sterling tanked, the Bank of England warned that interest rates would have to climb steeply, and Britain became a distressed economy. Truss has discredited Brexitism.
The Tory experiment is dying
Truss is gone. Her ideological hobgoblins turned on her. Two more years of the party that drove us over the Brexit cliff is unthinkable.
The UK is performing worse than any other country in Europe bar Greece and Cyprus. Post-financial crash, incomes in France grew by 34% and in Germany by 27%, while ours fell by 2%.
The UK economy was 90% of the size of Germany's in 2016, and now it has fallen to 70%. UK trade to the EU has fallen by 16%. Britain is now the most unequal country in Europe, bar Bulgaria.
The evil potion of the great Brexit lie that wildly misled so many is now wearing off. Labour should seize the moment. Poorer households are about to face a catastrophically bad year.
This has to stop. Two years more will break everything. What we need is an election.
AR Time for a general election.
Russia 1985−1999: TraumaZone
2022 October 19
Martial Law in Annexed Ukraine
Putin has announced the introduction of martial law in the four regions that his forces "annexed" from Ukraine. He hinted at a further escalation of the war: "Russia has repeatedly given a chance to the command of the satanists to come to their senses. But we were not heard or ignored. Now everything will be different, we will dictate the terms."
Adam Curtis used old tapes from the BBC offices in Moscow to create Russia 1985−1999: TraumaZone. Throughout the 7‑part series, he focuses on the faces and voices of ordinary Russians as they watch things collapse around them.
Mikhail Gorbachev plunged the Soviet Union into anarchy. His attempt at reform imploded and led to the cult of the free market. Western governments and companies promoted policies that had a catastrophic impact.
The result of applying this market fundamentalism was that pensions became worthless, savings evaporated as inflation raged, and life expectancy fell to third-world levels. Many Russians came close to destitution.
Vladimir Putin used the lawlessness of the Boris Yeltsin era to extend his authority. After he first became president in May 2000, he presided over a system of oligarchical rule and went on to create a totalitarian regime.
Failure of the Russian war in Ukraine could lead to his downfall. The Russian Federation could fracture and fragment. Liberals will cheer the end of Russian imperial power, but the dissolution will hardly be peaceful.
AR This risks widening to general war in Europe.
2022 October 18
Former Bank of England governor Mark Carney was asked about Brexit: "Put it this way. In 2016 the British economy was 90% the size of Germany's. Now it is less than 70%."
German exports and imports are soaring with everyone but the UK. Growth for the British economy is now expected to be just 0.8% a year for years to come. This is a disaster.
Brexit Ultras thought firing civil servants, rejecting good advice, cutting taxes for the rich, telling the poor to work harder for less, and slashing benefits would boost growth.
AR Can we say Brexit is dead now?
Nuclear fusion could become viable for electricity generation by 2035. Construction begins next year on the SPARC reactor, which should produce twice as much power as it consumes.
Fusion reactors use strong magnetic fields to contain extremely hot plasma. Generating the fields wastes a lot of energy. SPARC uses efficient new superconducting magnet technology.
Fusion uses heavy hydrogen isotopes that can be extracted from seawater. A fusion reactor could produce as much energy as a railcar of oil from just a teaspoon of heavy water.
AR Good news, but is solar our best hope?
Astronomers using data from the new James Webb Space Telescope are revising their work. The Webb detectors were not calibrated fully when the first data was released.
Calibration is critical for work requiring precise measurements of brightness. The next round of updates should shrink the Webb error bars down to just a few percentage points.
The Webb team first calibrated the Near Infrared Camera quickly for one detector and estimated the calibrations for the other nine detectors. The team is now taking its time.
AR Publish in haste, repent at leisure?
Rejoin the Single Market
and the Customs Union
Reform the UK
Rejoin the EU
2022 October 17
UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt has scrapped almost all the growth plan tax cuts and slashed the energy support package. In an emergency move to rebuild UK fiscal credibility, Hunt rewrote the tax and spending plans. Markets responded positively to signs that Hunt was finally getting a grip on UK public finances.
Battling for survival
UK prime minister Liz Truss is battling for her political survival as leading business figures and Conservative MPs pile pressure on her to resign. Downing Street is braced for further market turbulence as others call on Truss to quit. Her allies liken the "plotters" to Remainers.
The sad story of Brexit Britain
From the 2016 referendum onward, Brexit increasingly gave the Tories a focus. But once Britain formally left the EU, discipline within the Conservative party began to unravel.
Liz Truss did not exactly restore confidence in Downing Street. Her new government shredded the Tory reputation for fiscal prudence and sound economic management. The reaction abroad to her "fiscal event" has been awful.
The damage today cannot be separated from what happened in the years leading up to Brexit. As a dual US−UK citizen in London since 1996, I see Brexit as part of a post-imperial hangover.
Virtually all the economic arguments in favour of Brexit looked specious at best and cynically misleading at worst. The post-Brexit trade deals the UK has negotiated are insignificant compared with the loss of EU trade.
The harm has been devastating. Ending the free movement of labour between Britain and the continent is hollowing out the workforce. Economic indicators are all going in the wrong direction.
A Tory Brexit cult
Brexit sits behind all that has unfolded in the UK. The true believers prophesied that the economy would grow ever faster when unshackled from the EU.
The language became ever more cultish as each Brexiteer prediction collided with reality and was found wanting. Backbenchers jeered and shouted Project Fear when MPs lamented how the economy had suffered.
The idea that the Tories can ditch Truss now and go on to win the next election stretches credibility. All the contenders now eyeing the top job are true believers. Brexit has become the sacred shibboleth of the party.
The Tory party was once a party of pragmatism, moderation, and realism. Please call an election, take a break, and find yourselves again.
AR Do it.
⊛ Gleb Garanich/Reuters
Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Monday
⊛ Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP
Kamikaze drone attacking
Ukraine: Russian Kamikaze Drone Attacks
Ukraine has repeatedly asked its allies to supply it with more air defense systems and ammunition after Russia stepped up its use of Iranian-supplied kamikaze drones in strikes against Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, and other cities across Ukraine in recent weeks.
Kamikaze drones are loitering munitions that can wait for a time near a potential target and only strike once an enemy asset is identified. They are small, portable, easy to launch, and hard to detect.
The Ukrainian military and US intelligence say Russia is using Iranian-made attack drones. US officials say Russia bought these drones, which can carry PGMs and have a payload of about 50 kg. Ukraine says Russia has ordered 2,400 Shahed‑136 drones from Iran.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry: "In the past 13 hours, UAarmy shot down 37 Iranian Shahed‑136 drones and 3 cruise missiles launched by Russian terrorists"
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky: "All night and all morning, the enemy terrorizes the civilian population. Kamikaze drones and missiles are attacking all of Ukraine. A residential building was hit in Kyiv. The enemy can attack our cities, but it won't be able to break us. The occupiers will get only fair punishment and condemnation of future generations. And we will get victory."
AR Stay strong.
Liz Truss: the wrong policy
(unfunded tax cuts)
at the wrong time
(a global crisis)
2022 October 16
UK: Jeremy Hunt Takes Control
The Sunday Times
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is to delay the penny cut to income tax. He is now widely seen as the most powerful figure in government.
Truss is all but powerless. A cabinet minister: "Having dispatched her chancellor, who fell on his sword to defend her economic plan, I think it makes it very hard for her to survive."
Another: "I have not spoken to a single one of my cabinet colleagues who thinks this can go on much longer. If we don't change horses soon, we will be facing electoral annihilation."
Hunt is now the chief executive in government. He says the PM has in effect handed control of the public finances to him. He will deliver a fiscal statement on October 31.
He says the economic outlook is "far worse" than expected: "Spending will not rise by as much as people would like and all government departments are going to have to find more efficiencies than they were planning to."
Tory MPs are discussing how to evict Truss. Some aim to keep her going long enough to give Hunt time to settle in.
Liz Truss is bracing herself for what comes next. A former cabinet minister: "She has trashed our reputation of economic competence .. She's got to go."
Last Wednesday at PMQ, Truss committed "absolutely" not to cut public spending and twice said she was "genuinely unclear" as if for a Labour attack ad.
That evening, Tory MPs asked her hostile questions. An MP asked whether infrastructure projects would now be funded or scrapped. There was an awkward pause.
On Thursday morning, Kwasi Kwarteng flew to Washington for an IMF meeting. That night, he caught the last plane back to London and said: "I'm not going anywhere."
By Friday morning, the markets had priced in changes to the mini-budget.
A former cabinet minister: "She was right there with Kwasi .. Her office was briefing how close they were .. on economic understanding and ideology."
Most MPs say Truss will struggle to reach Christmas.
AR Was she an opposition mole?
2022 October 15
A Tiny British Publisher
Jacques Testard started his own publishing company in 2014 and called it Fitzcarraldo Editions.
Fitzcarraldo is now one of Britain's most talked-about publishing houses. When the French writer Annie Ernaux was awarded the 2022 Nobel literature prize last week, she became Fitzcarraldo's third author to gain the honor since the house's founding, after Olga Tokarczuk from Poland in 2019 and Svetlana Alexievich from Belarus in 2015.
The day after the Ernaux announcement, Testard ordered the reprinting of 65,000 copies of her books to keep pace with demand. Fitzcarraldo sold around 135,000 books across all its titles in 2021.
Much of the British publishing industry is baffled by Fitzcarraldo's success. But the fact that Testard reads fiction in French and Spanish, as well as in English, enables him to spot authors whom insular British editors miss.
Testard was a postgraduate student in history at Oxford until he went to work at The Sunday Times for a few months, then interned at publishers in France, Britain, and the United States. In New York in 2010, he was struck by the vibrant literary magazines and decided to start one in Britain. It has since become well known for publishing work by future literary heavyweights.
Fitzcarraldo began in 2014 with a vision. Half of its catalog would be books in translation. All would be at "the more radical end of contemporary writing" and mix genres such as memoir and fiction.
Testard receives tips from publishing editors across Europe and the United States, as well as from translators and authors he trusts. Most British and American publishers still think foreign fiction is too expensive or difficult.
Testard: "Risk-taking and having a commitment to authors over time really does work."
AR See ALBION
Sir Keir Starmer
Britain is crying out for clear leadership. Labour must provide it. We must stand with working people and build a new Britain.
We must grow the economy and raise living standards for everyone, not just a privileged few. We must create new jobs, new industries, and new opportunities. We must redesign our public services to unleash opportunity, provide security, and restore faith in politics as a force for good.
We must be the party of sound money. Every policy we announce will be fully costed. A new Office for Value for Money will make sure public spending targets the national interest.
We will turn Britain into a green growth superpower. We will Invest in wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen, green steel, and carbon capture. We will train plumbers, electricians, engineers, software designers, technicians, and builders. We will create a national sovereign wealth fund and Great British Energy.
We will fight the Tories on economic growth. We plan to spread the opportunities of the future to every community in Britain. Labour is the party of home ownership and aspiration in Britain today.
The next two years will be tough. We need to provide the leadership this country needs.
AR I say, a persuasive pitch.
Theresa May, Hunt, June 2019
Three months ago, Jeremy Hunt stood for election as prime minister. Now he is chancellor.
Hunt is backed by the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs who have never backed Liz Truss. He is a millionaire and leant heavily on his business success when making his leadership pitch in 2019. The former president of Oxford University Conservative Association is also the son of an admiral and was head boy at Charterhouse. He became the longest serving health secretary before becoming foreign secretary in 2018.
Hunt never fully embraced Brexit. Now he is the most powerful member of the cabinet.
A car crash
Since Brexit, Britain has had no coherent economic model. Trade has declined on all measures, the currency had lost nearly a third of its value against the dollar even before Truss, investment has flatlined, and the current account deficit is over 8% of GDP. Neither the government nor the Bank of England can talk honestly about the weak fundamentals: Brexit is the source of the problem.
AR By far the best way to increase UK growth prospects is to rejoin the EU.
King Charles greets Liz Truss on Wednesday with: "Back again? Dear oh dear"
2022 October 14
UK Political Turmoil
BBC News, 1539 BST
Prime minister Liz Truss delivered a short press conference aimed at restoring confidence in her government. She made a U‑turn on her government's decision to freeze corporation tax. The tax will now rise from 19% to 25% and raise £18 billion in taxes per year.
She was challenged over why she should remain in post when she had sacked Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor for implementing her policies. Earlier this morning, 10 Downing Street said the pair had been working in "lockstep" together.
Truss said she was "absolutely determined" to see through her promise to deliver economic growth and added that her new chancellor Jeremy Hunt "shares her vision" and will deliver the medium-term fiscal plan at the end of the month.
Liz Truss should go
There have been moments of crisis in the past century, but this is different. If Liz Truss remains as prime minister, it is hard to see her government reviving. The Conservative party will be doomed to defeat, and the country will have to live for two years with a stumbling government unable to connect with voters.
A government in meltdown
BBC News, 1529 BST
Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Jon Ashworth: "This is a government in utter meltdown .. Liz Truss has sacked her chancellor for carrying out the policies of Liz Truss − a set of policies that led to turmoil on the markets, a run on pension funds, and soaring mortgage rates for homeowners across the country. This is clearly a disastrous set of decisions from a disastrous budget .. we need a change of government."
'Hastened her demise"
Chris Mason, 1502 BST
Reporters were astonished that the prime minister's news conference was so short. She needs to provide plenty of reassurance to her MPs and the financial markets. A Tory MP: "I voted for Liz but I think she just appointed her successor. Awful. Sadly think that hastened her demise."
Liz Truss speaks
BBC News, 1437 BST
Prime minister Liz Truss says her new chancellor Jeremy Hunt will drive her mission to "go for growth" and make the reforms the UK needs.
She says her priority is to act in the national interest: "This is difficult, but we will get through the storm."
She will keep former chancellor Rishi Sunak's planned increase in corporation tax.
A Tory MP: "It's checkmate, we're screwed."
Hunt appointed as chancellor
Chris Mason, 1356 BST
Jeremy Hunt will be the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. During the leadership contest over the summer, Hunt put himself forward to be the next Tory leader but after not gaining enough support from fellow MPs he supported Rishi Sunak's bid.
Time for a general election
Sir Ed Davey, 1316 BST
"This mustn't just be the end of Kwarteng's disastrous chancellorship, it should be the death knell of the Conservatives' reckless mismanagement of our economy .. People are angry, fed up and worried about the future .. Liz Truss has broken our economy. It is time for the people to have their say in a general election."
Letter to the PM
Kwasi Kwarteng, 1307 BST
"You have asked me to stand aside as Chancellor. I have accepted. When you asked me to serve as your Chancellor, I did so in full knowledge that the situation we faced was incredibly difficult .. I wish you well."
This is astonishing
Chris Mason, 1257 BST
Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng tried and failed to implement their radical political program, and now the chancellor is out after less than 40 days. At a time of financial instability, the PM will need to steady the markets.
A senior Tory: "If as prime minister you remove a lightning rod, don't be surprised if rather more flashes of it end up striking you instead."
AR Creative chaos − excellent!
2022 October 13
US vs China
Thomas L Friedman
The US is locked in a struggle with China over the key technology of the information age. The alliance that designs and makes the smartest chips in the world will also have the smartest precision weapons and the smartest factories.
The Biden administration has issued new export regulations directed against China. The Chinese embassy in Washington says the US is going for sci-tech hegemony.
The new regulations bar any US expert from aiding China in chip manufacturing without approval. They also bar any company from supplying targeted Chinese entities with hardware or software whose supply chain contains US technology.
The most advanced semiconductors are made by global coalition of companies. The companies all trust premier chip manufacturer TSMC in Taiwan with their trade secrets. They all fear China will steal their intellectual property.
US secretary of commerce Gina Raimondo: "The US was in an untenable position. Today we are purchasing 100% of our advanced logic chips from abroad: 90% from TSMC in Taiwan and 10% from Samsung in Korea."
The new CHIPS Act aims to help make more of the advanced chips it needs in the US.
Raimondo: "China has a strategy of military−civil fusion .. We cannot ignore China's intentions."
The US and its allies aim to prevent China from learning to make the advanced chips.
Raimondo: "We don't want them in China's hands and be used for military purposes."
China says the ban will only spur it to stand on its own in science and technology. A Chinese analyst: "There is no possibility of reconciliation."
AR This is why the US backs Taiwan.
I am not a green energy sceptic. I am in favour of intelligent net zero in which green energy will play the biggest role.
The UK has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% since 1990 while growing the economy by over 70%. We can achieve net zero by 2050. But getting people on board requires us to show we can go green in a way that makes them better off, drives growth, and stimulates investment and innovation.
Our Contracts for Difference scheme has spurred £90 billion of investment in renewables and contributed to a 5× increase in electricity generation from renewable sources since 2012. In 2010, renewables accounted for 7% of UK electricity generation. Now they meet about 40% of UK needs.
Our growth plan will accelerate the delivery of infrastructure projects including windfarms and will boost the hydrogen industry. We will align onshore wind planning policy with other infrastructure to ease deployment and we will help householders with the upfront costs of solar installation.
We also need to focus on reinforcing the grid so that renewable electricity can reach homes and businesses. In exchange for supporting renewable energy companies, the energy prices bill requires them to charge consumers and taxpayers a fair price.
This will strengthen UK energy security and stop Putin holding us to ransom as we progress toward net zero.
AR More insightful than I expected from him.
2022 October 12
A Holographic Cosmos
Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen predicted that black holes could form in pairs connected by wormholes. Einstein, Rosen, and Boris Podolsky showed that a pair of interacting quantum particles would be eternally entangled.
Stephen Hawking said black holes would over time leak away all the mass that fell into them in a random fizz of particles and radiation. Quantum theory says information is never lost, but information would be lost in black hole radiation.
A hologram is basically a 3D image made of light. Leonard Susskind speculated that a black hole may be a hologram, with the event horizon as the film, encoding the stuff inside. Gerardus 't Hooft had the same idea.
In general relativity, the information content of a 3D space is limited to the number of bits that fit on a surface surrounding it, measured in Planck pixels. Jacob Bekenstein defined the limit where cramming too many bits into a space would collapse it into a black hole.
Juan Maldacena fleshed out the cosmos-as-holograph idea with ideas from string theory to make a model of the universe as a hologram. In it, all the information about what happens inside a volume of space is encoded as quantum fields on the surface of its boundary.
The holographic universe is like a can of soup, where the information about the contents is outside on the label. The bulk and the boundary are complementary sides of the same thing. The fields on the boundary obey quantum conservation of information, so the gravitational fields in the bulk do too. The can of soup is a proof of principle that gravity and quantum mechanics are compatible.
Don Page proposed that information is conserved when a black hole evaporates. A black hole does not radiate randomly. The radiation starts out random, but as time goes on, ever more of the particles emitted are correlated with those that came out earlier, delivering the missing qubits.
Particles escaping the black hole are entangled with particles that leaked out earlier. But the escaping particles are already entangled with their mates that fell into the black hole, running afoul of quantum monogamy. This can only work if the particles inside the black hole are the same as those now outside, connected by wormholes.
Maldacena and Susskind proposed that entanglement and wormholes are two faces of the same phenomenon. As they put it: ER = EPR.
Calculations show that information leaking through wormholes matches the pattern Page predicted. Geoff Penington: "And so the final moral of the story is, if your theory of gravity includes wormholes, then you get information coming out."
AR This story is a who's who of black hole physics.
Kerch bridge from Russia to Crimea attack aftermath, Saturday
2022 October 11
A Russian Nuclear Attack?
Putin aims to signal resolve and persuade his adversaries to sue for peace. He has burnt his bridges. A dangerous nuclear crisis is emerging.
If Russia cannot avoid military humiliation in Ukraine, it will not survive as a great power. The US war aim is to weaken Russia, but a cornered Russia may well use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Any Russian nuclear use will transform the conflict. We should expect a worldwide panic, of the sort we have never seen before, and keeping the NATO alliance together will become difficult.
The psychological impact of a detonation alone would compel the Ukrainians to halt all military offensives immediately. The diplomatic effect would be to raise the global pressure on the warring parties to stop fighting and start negotiating.
The US will then find itself with only bad options. A US nuclear response is out of the question. If Putin goes further up the escalation ladder, a more muscular US response becomes likely.
Any US response in Ukraine risks strategic nuclear war between Russia and NATO. Yet no vital US interest is at stake. Negotiate.
AR This is alarming.
2022 October 10
The New York Times
President Putin has unleashed the broadest aerial assault against Ukrainian civilians and critical infrastructure since the early days of his invasion, hitting cities across the country in strikes that drew furious international condemnation.
AR Losing Ukrainian hearts and minds − utterly counterproductive.
The current home secretary said this about asylum seekers: "I would love to be having a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that's my dream, it's my obsession."
My dream is very different. It is that we live in a world where those fleeing violence and oppression are shown compassion and treated like human beings, not shown the door and bundled on to planes like unwanted cargo.
Labour is now just as committed to Brexit − a hard Brexit − as the Tories. At least the Tories believe in it. Labour doesn't.
Yet rather than make the principled argument, they cower away from it. They abandon all principle for fear of upsetting the apple cart. They are willing to chuck Scotland under the Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street.
If the court decides in the way we hope it does, on 19 October next year, there will be an independence referendum. It will leave us with a simple choice: Put our case for independence to the people in an election or give up on Scottish democracy.
I will never give up on Scottish democracy.
AR Scots wha hae: Let us do or die!
• The attack
2022 October 9
Losing Crimea Could Finish Putin
Vladimir Putin opened the bridge across the Kerch Strait in 2018 and drove the first truck over it. Saturday's attack on it was a direct blow to his authority. The truck bomb destroyed two concrete spans, dropping the roadway into the sea, and ignited fuel wagons on a passing train.
The attack poses a challenge to the Russian commanders of the Ukraine war. The bridge was a key supply line to Crimea and the Russian forces in Kherson. They must now rely on shipping and the land route through annexed Ukrainian oblasts. Moscow claims the rail link will shortly reopen, but the road section may take more than a month to be rebuilt.
Crimea is heavily defended territory that Russians claim as theirs. It was transferred to Ukraine only in 1954, when the two countries were still in the Soviet Union. Its loss might be the last straw that brings Putin down.
Kerch bridge blast will be felt in the Kremlin
Putin, 2018: "In different historical epochs .. people dreamed of building this bridge .. And finally, thanks to your work and your talent, the miracle has happened."
The attack on the bridge occurred the day after Vladimir Putin marked his 70th birthday amid a series of humiliating recent defeats in his war against Ukraine. Following his nuclear brinkmanship and his illegal annexation of four Ukrainian provinces, he will retaliate.
Russians saw Crimea as beyond the reach of Ukraine. That has now changed. This is a propaganda victory for Kyiv.
AR A more destructive attack would be helpful.
Peveril Point, Swanage, with Isle of Wight on horizon, Saturday
2022 October 8
UK Botches COP26 Presidency
The UK seems to be ending its presidency of the UN climate talks next month in disunity and disarray. Rows over climate policy are hampering its ability to hold together the fragile coalition of developed and developing countries it built at the COP26 climate summit last year.
Liz Truss has still not agreed to attend COP27 next month. Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg will go, but he supports fracking, expanding oil and gas production, and climate skepticism.
In her speech to the Conservative party conference on Wednesday, Truss described environment groups as part of the "anti-growth coalition" she vowed to vanquish. She reportedly advised King Charles against attending COP27.
COP26 summit president Alok Sharma and climate minister Zac Goldsmith called for King Charles to attend COP27, where the UK hands over the presidency to Egypt. The Egyptian government warns the UK against backtracking on climate commitments and renews its invitation to King Charles.
Former Clinton White House climate adviser and now Progressive Policy Institute fellow Paul Bledsoe: "Britain under Liz Truss so far appears to be taking three steps backward and none forward on climate .. It's hard to imagine a more shambolic and disappointing end to the UK's COP presidency."
AR The UK needs sharper external discipline − rejoin the EU.
USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) earlier this year
Costing more than $13 billion, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford is the largest warship in the world.
It incorporates multiple new technologies including electromagnetic catapults to launch fighter jets.
Now on its first deployment, accompanied by a cruiser, three guided-missile destroyers, and supply ships, the carrier is
crossing the Atlantic for exercises with ships from France, Germany, Sweden, and Spain.
2022 October 7
Human Rights in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine
The Nobel Prize
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties.
The laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses, and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.
Nobel Committee head Berit Reiss-Andersen: "This prize is not addressing President Putin, not for his birthday or in any other sense."
AR Nice timing anyway.
2022 October 6
Gravity seems to explain the overall structure of the universe. But we invoke dark matter to help explain how galaxies and galactic clusters stick together.
Gravity acts over vast distances and pulls on all matter. Magnetism only affects electrically charged particles. But much of the stuff in the universe is plasma.
Hannes Alfvén suggested that the force exerted on plasma by magnetism ought to be big. Magnetic fields must play an important role in shaping the cosmos.
Only a very strong magnetic field could help shape galaxies. To create one, you need a plasma dynamo. Galaxy clusters have large empty volumes containing nothing but plasma. This plasma emits X‑rays and is 10 MK hot.
Cosmic dust grains in a magnetic field polarize any infrared light passing through them. In many spiral galaxies, the magnetic field follows the spiral pattern of the galaxy.
Turbulence in a plasma dynamo should hugely boost the strength of a magnetic field. Large laser laboratories can create a plasma hot enough to generate a turbulent dynamo.
The NIF in California can create a turbulent dynamo effect so strong that the magnetic field traps particles inside regions of the plasma to reduce the flow of heat by a factor of 100, creating hot and cold spots.
This ability of the magnetic fields to trap heat could explain the hot empty volumes in galaxy clusters. The magnetic field created by a turbulent dynamo could suppress the diffusion of heat for billions of years.
No one knows if magnetic fields in spiral galaxies are strong enough to replace dark matter.
AR A good way to get rid of some dark matter. If I understand correctly, torsional general relativity can get rid of the rest. As a mathematical exercise, how about quantizing a variant of Kaluza−Klein theory adding electromagnetism to teleparallel gravity in 5 dimensions?
2022 October 5
Click Chemists Awarded Nobel Prize
The 2022 Nobel prize for chemistry has been jointly awarded to Carolyn Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and Karl Barry Sharpless for their development of click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry.
Nobel Committee member Olof Ramström: "Click chemistry is chemistry based on specific reactions that work very efficiently and are very reliable to generate robust yields of products. You can essentially snap together two molecule building blocks in a very efficient and predictive way .. Bio-orthogonal reactions have helped with exploring the roles of biomolecules in cells and organisms."
They developed click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry
Carolyn Bertozzi of Stanford University, Morten Meldal of the University of Copenhagen, and Karl Barry Sharpless of Scripps Research developed click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry. Click chemistry revolutionized the options available to us for creating intended molecules. Bio-orthogonal chemistry enabled us to monitor the chemical processes going on inside living cells without harming them.
The term "bio-orthogonal" denotes a chemical reaction that does not interfere with or interact with a living system. The ability to perform complex reactions in living systems without interfering with natural biological reactions enables us to study diseases inside cells or even inside complex organisms.
Nobel Committee for Chemistry chair Johan Aqvist: "It's all about snapping molecules together. [This has] led to a revolution in how chemists think about linking molecules together and how to do it in living cells."
AR Again, this is delightful news.
In her Conservative party conference speech, Liz Truss set out a plan for "growth, growth, and growth" after an interruption by protesters waving a Greenpeace banner.
She said cutting taxes was "the right thing to do morally and economically" and explained her decision to withdraw her plan to abolish the top rate of income tax: "I get it and I have listened."
She said she would exert an "iron discipline" over public spending: "I believe in sound money and a lean state."
The pound fell against the US dollar after the speech.
AR She's deluded about economics.
Gwyneth Paltrow: "My most lasting mistakes and the mess that comes with them have all stemmed from me not standing fully in my truth and speaking from it."
The idea that truth is all about where you're coming from is relativism. Nobody is more innately right than anybody else. Relativism is at the core of identity politics.
Cate Blanchett: "One of the phrases I just cannot say is 'my truth'. I mean, the truth is the truth, isn't it?"
AR Cate right, Gwyneth wrong.
L to R: John Clauser, Anton Zeilinger, Alain Aspect
2022 October 4
Quantum Physicists Awarded Nobel Prize
The 2022 Nobel prize in physics has been jointly awarded to Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for experiments with entangled photons and their work in pioneering quantum information science.
Each of the winners carried out an experimental test of Bell's theorem. This involved measuring the correlation of properties of two entangled photons in an isolated system to see if it exceeds the Bell inequality.
John Clauser and Stuart Freedman were the first to test the Bell inequality. Their results violated it to a high level of statistical significance, implying that quantum mechanics has nonlocal effects. But their experiment left loopholes.
Alain Aspect at the University of Paris-Saclay and his team measured the Bell inequality again, to greater precision and with less doubt, by measuring the polarization of pairs of photons.
Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and his team expanded their work to consider three or more particles entangled in a GHZ state. This is key for quantum computing, where GHZ states can be used as qubits.
Prize for ground-breaking experiments with entangled particles
Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger have won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for experiments that proved the profoundly strange quantum nature of reality. Between them, they established the existence of quantum entanglement, where two widely separated particles appear to share information despite having no way of communicating.
Nobel Committee member Thors Hans Hansson: "The experiments performed by Clauser and Aspect .. provided tools for creating and manipulating and measuring states of particles that are entangled although they are far away."
Entanglement is now poised to power an emerging wave of quantum technologies. Anton Zeilinger has been at the forefront, developing techniques that use entanglement to achieve astounding feats of quantum networking, teleportation, and cryptography.
Nobel Committee member Eva Olsson: "Quantum information science is a vibrant and rapidly developing field .. Its predictions have opened doors to another world, and it has also shaken the very foundations of how we interpret measurements."
Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen first described quantum entanglement in 1935. Einstein thought it would prove the death of quantum mechanics because it seemed to fly in the face of a central tenet of relativity. Instead, the EPR paper triggered a complete rethinking of reality.
AR I've been following this work closely for decades. Bell's theorem is fundamental. We live in a quangled omnium.
UK Government Debt Crisis
Many Tories are concerned about how they can justify boosting the take-home pay of the wealthiest while cutting the real incomes of the poorest.
As the government seeks ways to pay for promised tax cuts, plenty of Tory MPs seem willing to say benefits should not bear the burden of balancing the books.
Number 10 thinking is that help is already going to those who need it most. And plenty of Tory MPs are sceptical of a ballooning welfare budget.
Sterling is not out of trouble
UK PM Liz Truss will not rule out real-terms benefit cuts: "We are going to have to make decisions about how we bring down debt as a proportion of GDP .. we have to look at these issues in the round, we have to be fiscally responsible."
Argentex Group CEO Harry Adams: "We anticipate sterling to remain highly responsive to the notion of any further changes in government policy. There is no realistic scenario whereby sterling enjoys a straightforward recovery."
After the U-turn, the cuts
UK chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has left £43G of his £45G in tax cuts intact. He is still doubling tax-free giveaways to those with share options, cutting £1G from tax on dividends, deregulating bankers' bonuses, giving away £4G for employees who become self-employed and for tax-free shopping by foreign tourists, handing out £19G of corporation tax cuts, and rejecting a windfall tax on excess oil and gas profits.
Public spending cuts will impede growth, ruin education, and undermine the NHS. By 2026, the cuts will add up to £42G ± £5G. Even venture capitalists need educated workers, functioning roads and railways, innovations incubated in universities, and a public health system. When the strong help the weak, we are all stronger.
AR Henceforth, £1G is a billion pounds sterling.
War in Ukraine
Russia is losing the war, and Putin knows it. The despot is desperate. His army is in tatters, his battle plans are shot, he's burning through cash, and winter is looming. Meanwhile, Ukraine's army continues to advance.
Atlantic Council millennium fellow Alp Sevimlisoy says a Ukrainian victory would mean Putin being deposed, Russia breaking apart, and NATO facing off with China over the spoils: "Russia will have to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer a world power but a .. Black Sea state .. the domination of this region will be up to Turkey."
Is Putin in a bunker in Siberia?
Putin will be 70 on Friday. The General SVR Telegram channel says he has warned his closest family that he may rapidly evacuate to a bunker a long way from Moscow, safe from attack.
Putin is said to have several bunkers in Siberia. One is on the Yamal peninsula and another in the Altai Mountains. His relatives and friends will go there too.
General SVR claims Putin is suffering from serious illnesses, but this cannot be verified.
AR Russia is certainly due for a fall.
⊛ Karsten Möbius
Russian nuclear munitions
train heads for Ukraine
Truss and Kwarteng drop
plan to axe top tax rate
2022 October 3
Geneticist Awarded Nobel Prize
Svante Pääbo has been awarded the 1922 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for his work on human evolution and the genomes of our extinct human relatives.
In 1990, Pääbo − who founded the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig − pioneered methods to sequence ancient DNA by starting with mitochondrial DNA.
Nobel committee chair Anna Wedell: "Humanity has always been intrigued by its origins .. Pääbo finally achieved the impossible, sequencing and assembly of the Neanderthal genome .. and discovered a completely new hominin entirely by analysing and comparing genome sequences."
Pääbo found that modern humans diverged from Neanderthals roughly 800 ky ago. Some 2% of the genome in people of European or Asian descent originates from Neanderthals.
Pääbo also discovered a new type of hominin, the Denisovans. People in Melanesia and parts of SE Asia have up to 6% Denisovan DNA.
Early human genomes decoded
Svante Pääbo has won the prize for his pioneering work on extinct humans and human ancestors. He fathered paleogenomics.
Homo sapiens shares significant DNA sequences with the Neanderthals and other earlier hominins. Pääbo and his team developed new techniques to extract, duplicate, and read the old DNA and reconstruct the original genome. They sequenced the Neanderthal genome and discovered the Denisovans.
Through new sequencing technologies and advanced computational analysis, Pääbo and his team sequenced DNA from 40 ky old bones. In 2010, they published the first full sequence of the Neanderthal genome in 2010.
Neanderthals and Denisovans split an estimated 380 ky to 470 ky ago. Modern humans split from the two other species some 550 ky to 760 ky ago. The most recent common ancestor of them all lived around 1 My ago.
Evidence of human interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans appears as genetic variants in some people today.
AR Fascinating work.
BBC News / PA Media
BBC 1, Sunday: Laura Kuenssberg interviews Liz Truss
2022 October 2
UK PM: No Retreat
From our long conversation this morning:
• Liz Truss has no intention of changing her plans for the economy
• Her decisions may well involve spending cuts in the next few years
• She didn't consult her Cabinet over scrapping the 45p top tax rate
• She knows the last week has not been an unalloyed success
She faces the Conservative party conference in Birmingham this week.
Mistakes were made
Liz Truss admits mistakes were made in the controversial mini-budget that sparked market turmoil last week. She says she will not retreat on her plan to deliver £45 billion of unfunded tax cuts but admits: "We should have laid the ground better and I have learned from that."
Chancellor revealed plans to financiers
The Sunday Times
Hours after delivering his mini-budget to the Commons, UK chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng attended a private champagne reception at the Chelsea home of financier and Conservative Party donor Andrew Law.
The guests, who included stockbrokers, bankers, financiers, and investors, congratulated Kwarteng on his proposals. After the reception, hedge fund bosses who stood to profit from a falling pound told associates Kwarteng was a useful idiot.
Enemies of the chancellor say his contacts have influenced his decisions in office. Over the summer, Kwarteng privately dined with his former boss Crispin Odey, a hedge fund investor and sponsor of Brexit.
UK reputation is undone
The reputation of the UK is undergoing a historic fall. The British state has lost its moral and institutional bearings. Some will doubtless point at Brexit as the original sin.
Liz Truss has unshackled the UK government from the institutional guardrails of the Office for Budget Responsibility, proposed unfunded tax cuts on the rich during a cost-of-living crisis, and threatened to unleash benefit cuts on the poor.
For this government, compromise and pragmatism are dirty words. Our cultural inheritance is being napalmed by a leader out of control. We need a general election.
AR I'm not making this up.
WW2 tanks: Churchill vs Tiger
Tiger Day Autumn 2022: my photos
2022 October 1
President Vladimir Putin, 69, won't back down. He has expanded his "special military operation" in Ukraine into a war and hinted at using nuclear weapons. There is no turning back for him.
Putin is destroying his own legacy. His military contractor is recruiting murderers and sex offenders and sending them to Ukraine. A TV host says those who mismanaged the mobilization should be shot. Hundreds of thousands of Russian men are fleeing abroad.
Putin held mock referendums in four regions of Ukraine. Now he has annexed them, he sees his attacks on Ukraine as a defense of his own borders. Crimea is just one of the Ukrainian regions he says are Russian.
Russia, he says, will respond to a threat to its territorial integrity with all the means at its disposal. A Kremlin propagandist says there are only two possibilities: quick victory or nuclear war.
Putin can destroy Ukrainian cities and infrastructure far from the front lines. He can try to flood the battlefields with untrained soldiers. He can force Belarus to help him. But he cannot admit defeat.
His big mistake is messing not just with the West but with an opponent for whom the fight is existential. Ukrainians have shown what price they are willing to pay. They won't back down.
Antonov An-225 Mriya