Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Eurofighter defeats F-15Es in mock combat

It might be over budget and years late but the Eurofighter Typhoon has shown that it can shake off America's best fighter plane and shoot it down.

A chance encounter over the Lake District between a Eurofighter trainer and two F-15 aircraft turned into a mock dogfight, with the British plane coming off best - much to the surprise of some in the RAF. The episode was hushed up for fear of causing US blushes.

For a project 10 years late and $8bn over budget, it is a welcome piece of good news.

The 'clash' took place last year over Windermere when the two-seater RAF Eurofighter was 'bounced' from behind by the two F-15E fighters.

The US pilots intended to pursue the supposedly hapless 'Limey' for several miles and lock their radars on to it for long enough so that if it had been a real dogfight the British jet would have been shot down.

But much to the Americans' surprise, the Eurofighter shook them off, outmanoeuvred them and moved into shooting positions on their tails.

The British pilots themselves were almost as surprised at winning an encounter with an aircraft widely regarded as the best fighter in the world.

Eurofighter a shooting star in clash with US jets

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A theory of everything?

In his later years, Einstein sought a unified theory that would extend general relativity and provide an alternative to quantum theory. There is now talk of a 'theory of everything' (although Einstein himself never used the phrase). Fifty years after his death, how close are we to such a theory?

Read the rest in Nature

Symposium on Roger Penrose's Shadows of the Mind

'In his book Shadows of the Mind, Roger Penrose suggests that deep problems in artificial intelligence, physics, and the philosophy of mind are closely connected. He presents a detailed argument, using Gödel's theorem, for the conclusion that human thought cannot be simulated by any computation. This leads him to the conclusion that physics is noncomputable, and he presents suggestions about how noncomputability may enter into a theory of quantum gravity. Finally, he argues that this may take effect at the level of the mind through quantum collapse processes in microtubules, protein structures found in the skeleton of a neuron.

In this symposium, nine researchers in computer science, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, and molecular biology address Penrose's positions at some length, concentrating on his Gödelian arguments against artificial intelligence and on his proposal that quantum processes in microtubules are essential to the functioning of the mind. The commentaries are followed by a reply by Penrose.'

Symposium on Roger Penrose's Shadows of the Mind

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Roger Penrose's Platonism

Listen to this wonderful lecture by Sir Roger Penrose, author of The Emperor's New Mind and most recently The Road to Reality. Accompanying the talk are his handwritten slides, to help you follow along. Here is the first one:

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Europe launches super rocket

More good news from the European space program, as a new rocket able to launch 10 tons of payload into low earth orbit is tested successfully. The last twelve months have been very good for European efforts in space. In related news, the Americans have abandoned the Hubble space telescope, their one great success story of the last decade. President Bush wants to put humans on Mars instead, but he's not the first President to ask for Mars colonization, his dad beat him by 15 years.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Tremors of Doubt

Without comment, an article by David B. Hart, author of The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth on the disaster in Asia, on whether it was God's will, and the notion of 'divine punishment' in general.

Tremors of Doubt

What kind of God would allow a deadly tsunami?

Friday, December 31, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST

On Nov. 1, 1755, a great earthquake struck offshore of Lisbon. In that city alone, some 60,000 perished, first from the tremors, then from the massive tsunami that arrived half an hour later. Fires consumed much of what remained of the city. The tidal waves spread death along the coasts of Iberia and North Africa.

Voltaire's "Poëme sur le désastre de Lisbonne" of the following year was an exquisitely savage--though sober--assault upon the theodicies prevalent in his time. For those who would argue that "all is good" and "all is necessary," that the universe is an elaborately calibrated harmony of pain and pleasure, or that this is the best of all possible worlds, Voltaire's scorn was boundless: By what calculus of universal good can one reckon the value of "infants crushed upon their mothers' breasts," the dying "sad inhabitants of desolate shores," the whole "fatal chaos of individual miseries"?

Perhaps the most disturbing argument against submission to "the will of God" in human suffering--especially the suffering of children--was placed in the mouth of Ivan Karamazov by Dostoyevsky; but the evils Ivan enumerates are all acts of human cruelty, for which one can at least assign a clear culpability. Natural calamities usually seem a greater challenge to the certitudes of believers in a just and beneficent God than the sorrows induced by human iniquity.

Considered dispassionately, though, man is part of the natural order, and his propensity for malice should be no less a scandal to the conscience of the metaphysical optimist than the most violent convulsions of the physical world. The same ancient question is apposite to the horrors of history and nature alike: Whence comes evil? And as Voltaire so elegantly apostrophizes, it is useless to invoke the balances of the great chain of being, for that chain is held in God's hand and he is not enchained.


As a Christian, I cannot imagine any answer to the question of evil likely to satisfy an unbeliever; I can note, though, that--for all its urgency--Voltaire's version of the question is not in any proper sense "theological." The God of Voltaire's poem is a particular kind of "deist" God, who has shaped and ordered the world just as it now is, in accord with his exact intentions, and who presides over all its eventualities austerely attentive to a precise equilibrium between felicity and morality. Not that reckless Christians have not occasionally spoken in such terms; but this is not the Christian God.
The Christian understanding of evil has always been more radical and fantastic than that of any theodicist; for it denies from the outset that suffering, death and evil have any ultimate meaning at all. Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to "powers" and "principalities"--spiritual and terrestrial--alien to God. In the Gospel of John, especially, the incarnate God enters a world at once his own and yet hostile to him--"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not"--and his appearance within "this cosmos" is both an act of judgment and a rescue of the beauties of creation from the torments of fallen nature.

Whatever one makes of this story, it is no bland cosmic optimism. Yes, at the heart of the gospel is an ineradicable triumphalism, a conviction that the victory over evil and death has been won; but it is also a victory yet to come. As Paul says, all creation groans in anguished anticipation of the day when God's glory will transfigure all things. For now, we live amid a strife of darkness and light.

When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering--when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children's--no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God's inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God's good ends. We are permitted only to hate death and waste and the imbecile forces of chance that shatter living souls, to believe that creation is in agony in its bonds, to see this world as divided between two kingdoms--knowing all the while that it is only charity that can sustain us against "fate," and that must do so until the end of days.

Mr. Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, is the author of "The Beauty of the Infinite" (Eerdmans).

Victor Davis Hanson's Analogy

Victor Hanson, classicist, farmer, and as of late Bush administration neocon groupie, compares the invasion of Iraq by the United States with the invasion of Laconia by the Thebans of Epaminondas. He fails to notice that Iraq is 1/10 the size of the United States, its army is pitiful and it is separated by the United States by thousands of miles of land and ocean. Iraq never threatened the United States, nor was it ever likely to do so. Sparta was a thread to the Boetians, even after its defeat and by attacking it, the Boetians were looking ahead, trying to stop the enemy from regrouping and exacting revenge. They were not 'idealistic' in attacking Laconia, but pragmatic. As for the attack on Iraq, that is not 'idealistic' either, because the spread of democracy is the fall-back excuse of the warmongers after the failure of all the other reasons for the war. It is not pragmatic either, because Iraq presented no threat to the world.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Al Qaeda's New Front

A PBS special on the rise of radical Islam in Europe, Al Qaeda's New Front, can be viewed online.

Key to winning over Europeans is for Bush to listen to them

Thomas Friedman captures European attitudes perfectly in this piece written in anticipation of President Bush's European trip. His comment do not apply to Europeans only, but to Arabs too, and others who don't seem to 'get' what the President is saying. Mr. Bush always sounds as if he is addressing his home country's audience, even when he is abroad. The widespread dislike of America around the world is treated as a 'communication problem' that will be solved by better public relations and media penetration abroad, to 'better communicate' the message. There is nothing wrong with the way the message is communicated, but the contents of the message which irk people, and the first step to realizing that is to just listen:

Key to winning over Europeans is for Bush to listen to them


By Thomas L. Friedman

Having spent the past 10 days traveling to Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland, I have one small suggestion for President Bush. I suggest that when he comes to Europe to mend fences next month he give only one speech. It should be at his first stop in Brussels, and it should consist of basically three words: ``Read my ears.''

Let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is nothing that the Europeans want to hear from George Bush, there is nothing that they will listen to from George Bush that will change their minds about him or the Iraq war or U.S. foreign policy. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any other U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven't met them yet.

In such an environment, the only thing that Bush could do to change people's minds about him would be to travel across Europe and not say a single word -- but just listen. If he did that, Bush would bowl the Europeans over. He would absolutely disarm and flummox people here -- and improve his own image markedly. All it would take for him would be just a few words: ``Read my ears. I have come to Europe to listen, not to speak. I will give my Europe speech when I come home.''

If Bush did that, none of the European pundits would be able to pick apart his speeches here and mock the contradictions between his words and deeds. None of them would comment on his delivery and what he failed to mention. Instead, all the European commentators, politicians and demonstrators would start fighting with one another over what to say to the president. It might even force the Europeans to get out of their bad habit of just saying, ``George Bush,'' and everybody laughing or sneering as if that ends the conversation, and Europe doesn't have to declare what it stands for.

Listening is also a sign of respect. It is a sign that you value what the other person might have to say. If you just listen to someone first, it is amazing how much they will listen to you back. Most Europeans, though, are convinced that George Bush is deaf -- that he cannot listen or hear. Just proving that he is not deaf, and therefore the Europeans don't have to shout, would do wonders for Bush's standing.

What would Bush hear? Some of it is classic Euro-whining, easily dismissible. But some of it is very heartfelt, even touching. I heard it while doing interviews at the Pony Club, a trendy bar/beauty parlor in East Berlin. And more and more I think it explains why many Europeans dislike Bush so intensely.

It's this: Europeans love to make fun of naive American optimism, but deep down, they envy it and they want America to be that open, foreigner-embracing, carefree, goofily enthusiastic place that cynical old Europe can never be. Many young Europeans blame Bush for making America, since Sept. 11, into a strange new land that exports fear more than hope, and has become dark and brooding -- a place whose greeting to visitors has gone from ``Give me your tired, your poor'' to ``Give me your fingerprints.'' They look at Bush as someone who stole something precious from them.

Tim Kreutzfeldt, the bar owner, said to me: ``Bush took away our America. I mean, we love America. We are very sad about America. We believe in America and American values, but not in Bush. And it makes us angry that he distorted our image of the country which is so important to us. It is not what America stands for -- and this makes us angry and it should make every American angry, because America lost so much in its reputation worldwide.''

The Bush team, he added, is giving everyone in the world the impression that ``somebody is coming to kill you.''

Stefan Elfenbein, a food critic nursing a beer at our table, added: ``I know many people who don't want to travel to America anymore. People are afraid to be hassled at the border. We all discuss it, when somebody goes to America: `Are you sure?' We had hope that Kerry would win and would make a statement, `America is back to what it was four years ago.'

``We hoped that he would be the symbol, the figure who would say, `[America] is the country that welcomes everybody again.' Now we have to wait four more years, hopefully for somebody to give us back the country we knew and liked.''

Yes, yes, there are legitimate counters to all these points. But before anyone here will listen to Bush make those counterpoints, he will have to really listen to them first.

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN is a New York Times columnist.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The United States Of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy

While the United States flexes its economic and military muscles around the world as the dominant global player, it may soon have company. According to the Washington Post's T.R. Reid, the nations of Europe are setting aside differences to form an entity that's gaining strength, all seemingly unbeknownst to the U.S. and its citizens. The new Europe, Reid says, "has more people, more wealth, and more trade than the United States of America," plus more leverage gained through membership in international organizations and generous foreign aid policies that reap political clout. Reid tells how European countries were willing to discontinue their individual centuries-old currencies and adopt the Euro, the monetary unit that is now a dominant force in world markets. This is noteworthy not just for exploring the considerable economic impact of the Euro, but also for what that spirit of cooperation means for every facet of Europe in the 21st century, where governments and citizens alike believe that the rewards of banding together are worth a loss in sovereignty. Reid's most compelling portrait of this trend is in the young Europeans known as "Generation E" who see themselves not as Spaniards or Czechs but simply as Europeans. To illustrate America's obliviousness to this trend, Reid tells of former GE CEO Jack Welch, who never bothered to factor European objections into a proposed multi-billion dollar merger with Honeywell, leading to the deal being torpedoed and Welch disgraced. But what is most striking in The United States of Europe is the contrast between the new Europe and the United States. The Europeans cannot match the raw military size of the U.S., but by mixing wealth with diplomacy and continental unity (helped along by antipathy toward George W. Bush's brand of Americanism), they are forming an innovative and powerful superpower. --John Moe (amazon.com)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Bush doctrine

Christ called on us to turn the other cheek if someone smites us. The Bush doctrine is not only to smite the other guy if he smites us, but to smite him even before he attacks. It's actually to smite him even if we're not sure he has a club to attack us with. Really, it's more like 'to smite someone if we suspect that he has a club with which he intends to smite us, and after we've killed him and searched his dead body, finding that he had no club, to pretend that we should have smitten him anyway'.

Originally posted in the comments of MajorityRights.com

The collapse of the Dollar

The collapse of the US dollar is inevitable, as America continues to spend her money in misguided overseas wars, as China rises and Europe consolidates, as American consumers continue to spend mindlessly, confident in their leaders' assertion that all is well with the American economy, as jobs continue to be shipped overseas, while the living space of America is invaded by illegal immigrants whose presence is welcomed by the members of the economic elite which has lost all interest in America as a country, provided that it continues to remain a safe haven for them and their children.

What do Americans do about all of this? Some of them at least try to make money out of the coming collapse, by writing books such as The Coming Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from It : Make a Fortune by Investing in Gold and Other Hard Assets. I can't say that I blame them, because financial profit may be the only thing left to salvage from the failed American experiment.

Friday, January 21, 2005


'So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.'

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

European Excellence

European science and technology is proving its might, soon after the inauguration of the world's tallest bridge, this week saw the launch of the world's largest aircraft, the Airbus A380, and the arrival of the Huygens probe to Titan.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Is the U.S. "Stingy"?

Yes they are, according to the facts.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Polls: Many Europeans view Americans unfavorably

Many Americans are surpised by the news that many Europeans view Americans unfavorably, not distinguishing between the actions of the US government and the American people. Why should they? The Americans just sanctioned the administration of Mr. Bush. Their actions at the polls are a reflection of their true character.

World's Tallest Bridge

The Millau Viaduct the world's tallest bridge, linking France to Spain, designed by a Briton, a symbol of European ingenuity.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Funny Description of Neocon

Sometimes you read something so funny that it's hard to believe. I had never seen Charles Krauthammer, ethnic cleansing enthusiast, and notorious anti-Greek. After seeing him for the first time...

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...I remembered how Ha'aretz, the Israeli daily described him recently:

Charles Krauthammer is handsome, swarthy and articulate.

Give me a break!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

500,000 Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands don't speak Dutch

The conventional wisdom is that Muslims in the Netherlands don't speak Dutch because they 'do not want to integrate', or because the Netherlands 'does not try hard enough to integrate them'. Perhaps, but maybe it's due to their low IQ. Intelligence is necessary to learn a second language, for someone who is not a child.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Uncertainty Principle

'In the formulation of the causal law, namely, 'If we know the present exactly, we can predict the future,' it is not the conclusion, but rather the premise which is false. We cannot, as a matter of principle, know the present in all its details'.

-- Heisenberg

The Uncertainty Principle proves that Plato was right. You will never find truth in sensation, because sensation cannot capture the real world. At the most basic level, the world is fleeting, our vision of it through our senses is imperfect, incomplete, blurry.

Classical determinism can be summed up as: A therefore B.

The Uncertainty principle says that our senses limit us to expressing a statement of: ψ(A) therefore ψ(B).

The real world is not in the ψ wave functions, apprehended by our imperfect senses. The real world is in the 'therefore', that which always is and never becomes, that which is apprehended not by the senses but by intellection.