Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Events of the Decade

Technically the decade ends on December 31st 2010 but why not jump the gun a bit?

1. Terrorists attack the US on 911. An event that may have been avoided if the Clintonistas had not dropped the ball with respect to Al-Qaeda during their term in office (remember the Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania attacks). Dubya (for better or for worse - methinks for worse) is given the task of cleaning up the meanwhile airline flights will never be the same again.

2. The collapse of GM, Chrysler, AIG, Lehman Brothers and the US housing mortgage industry (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Both political parties are to blame but so are greed, entitlements, lax banking and affirmative action driven economics.

3. The continued growth of China into an economic superpower - certainly from a manufacturing standpoint - Is there anything still made in the West?

4. Globalization saunters on driven by the power of the Internet - never in the history of our species have so many bad ideas spread so quickly.

5. Considerable time, money, resources and newsprint is spent on the global warming meme despite the fact that no average global temperature increase has been recorded since 1998. Expect more (much more on this topic) over the next decade as wealth distribution agreements such as that of Kyoto, with little chance of influencing climate change, are thrust down the throats of a naive public.

6. The US becomes an even more significant debtor nation as the false doctrine of spending more to stimulate the economy is followed. Not to mention the equally fallacious doctrine of bailing out failed institutions.

7. His holiness Barack Obama is elected president. Most of the muppets who follow BO would place him at #1. His health policies are noteworthy but on the foreign policy front he still seems like a lightweight.

8. The Iraq War and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. I was lukewarm about the invasion myself as I felt that it detracted from the real war on terror and it wouldn't surprise me if Iraq has another strong man ruling the roost by decade's end.

9. Invasion of Afghanistan and the ongoing fight against the Taliban. This seems like one of those never ending sagas to me. The US erred in not fighting this war with a proper commitment from the beginning - my feeling is that the Taliban needs to be hit firmly with one solid strike - after that NATO should pull out and let regional players such as Pakistan handle what is clearly a situation in their own backyard.

10. The Bolivarian Movement in South America is galvanized by Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. Each fully intent on padding their egos by the same absolute margins that they deflate their economies.

11. AIDS continues to be a deadly disease in Africa while many Western sufferers enjoy the benefits of life prolonging cocktail of medicines. In little mentioned news George W. Bush ups aid to Africa, but how much of this will reach the most needy is any one's bet.

12. Substantial economic growth in tech obsessed India is ever more the reality despite the fact that a population of over 1.1 billion souls continues to strain resources.

13. The New Left gorgon manifests itself strongly within the growing Environmentalist cult. Just when you thought Communism was dead you have the sequel......

14. Decline in standards of Educkashun (sic) across Europe. Tick one for leftist dominated institutions rolling back the progress of the Age of Reason.

15. More Attacks on Freedom of Speech as Political Correctness (Hate Laws and Speech Codes) gain ground across the West. Meanwhile the ACLU pimps itself out as the champion of those who would truly deny free speech and human rights to all.

16. Pakistan is plagued by corruption, poor leadership, civil war and internal strife - this wouldn't be much of a problem if they didn't have nukes as well.

17. Iran's Islamic regime becomes all the more belligerent as it follows a policy of nuclear weapons acquisition and development - while at the same time being controlled by a cabal of apocalyptic fanatics.

18. North Korea (who most certainly have nuclear technology - no thanks to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton's appeasement) persist as a regional/global menace...if for nothing else than to p*ss off the West and make some money on the side.

19. Vladmir Putin dominates Russian politics and continues to throw his country's weight around internationally as a foil against the US. He bullies poor Georgia but somehow, in this world of relativisms, gets away with it.

20. Israel hands back the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians and is rewarded for its efforts by a battery of rocket attacks. Both Bush and Obama push for a two state solution while Israel's regional enemies refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

21. South African's elect former thug (and probable rapist) Jacob Zuma as president - soon to be the African Chavez.

22. The Iranian democratic movement fights bravely for human rights for the Persian populace only to be let down by Obama and co. who takes a play from the father of the Iranian Revolution, Jimmy Carter instead of Ronald Reagan.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Time Magazines Most Important People

Here is the list with my comments in italics

1. Edward Kennedy - Botched Cold War Politics and should have been jailed for Chappaquidick instead he is eulogized as a modern day visionary...go figure

2. Gordon Brown - Britain's Mr. Blah

3. Christine Lagarde - A Eurocrat who seems to be a positive force on the economic frontier in France

4. Thomas Dart - A real hero to the little man

5. Avigdor Lieberman - A flashback to the day of the no-nonsense Israeli politician...a relief after Olmert and the appeasers.

6. Joaquin Guzman - Mexican drug lord - enough said.

7. Nouri al-Maliki - Iraq's Prime Minister - but can he hold the center?

8. Hilary Clinton - Continues the age old American tradition of ineptness in the State Department.

9. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - Could be Indonesian best ever leader but considering the fact that Sukarno and Suharto are his chief competitors this is not saying much.

10. Boris Johnson - London Mayor. Represents an infinite improvement over his predecessor, terror-pandering Ken Livingstone. Could use a good hair brush though.

11. Norah al-Faiz - She is the first Saudi woman minister but don't expect her to make much progress in a Kingdom where Women's Rights are practically non-existent.

12. Elizabeth Warren - Co-ordinated the mass bailout ($700 billion) of the US banking industry that further indebted the federal government.

13. Paul Kagame - Rwandan leader. Helped end the slaughter in 1994 (the one which the Clintonistas and the Rest of the World pretty much ignored). He seems to be on the right political track.

14. Nicolas Sarkozy - Understands the threat to Western Civilization from Islamofascism. For this alone he would get my vote.

15. Angela Merkel - Is a remarkable improvement on Gerhard Schroeder...A tad matronly but Germany is perhaps one country where you don't want the leader to be overly charismatic.

16. Wang Qishan - I don't know too much about this guy but his position as an economic powerbroker in China coupled with China's growing clout in the financial market certainly warrants further investigation

17. Xi Jinping - Could be China's future President - lets home that he is more Deng (with all his faults) than Mao.

18. David McKiernan - The General Petraeus of the Afghanistan theatre...but will Obama and co. give him time to succeed?

19. Ashfaq Kayani - Pakistani general and possible future president. He is fighting the good fight (against Islamofascism) in one of the most corrupt countries on the planet - I wish him all the success.

20. Barack Obama - Seems to be emerging as a centrist. Does not deserve the B+ he gave himself but is still ahead of the D- that Congress rightfully earned.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In the News LXV

Obama wins historic vote on healthcare
For the most part, although I questioned his timing, which was awful in light of the recession, I supported Obama's position on this issue. It is an extremely important piece of legislation that will set in a motion a viable two-tier system. Granted their are problems with the legislation but the do-nothing approach on this issue was simply non-sensical.

Paranoid Chavez goes after the Dutch
The man is a menace, what is most worrisome is the amount of arms he is stockpiling courtesy of Putin and his thugs.

Jimmy Carter apologizes to World Jewry
For years he dragged Israel through the mud, now that he needs the Jewish vote for his grandson he changes his tune. As was always the case Carter is completely untrustworthy. But what can one expect from America's worst ever post World War II president? Point of note - its amazing how many bigots troll the internet adding their comments to articles such as this one that I cited.

A depressing thought - Draft Sarah Palin for President....
She is no Ronald Reagan and if the Republican party (which is still in tatters right now) cannot do better than her than Obama will most certainly triumph in 2012. I still like Rudy Giuliani.

Mugabe fiddles while Zimbabwe burns
He has single-handily destroyed a once prosperous nation. South Africa needs to take a regional stance in removing this demagogue.

Iran is becoming more of a police state
Something has to give..lets hope this time Obama will do the right thing and stand up against tyranny.

11 Fundamental Questions of Physics

As per the National Academy of Science

* What is dark matter?
* What are the masses of the neutrinos, and how have they shaped the evolution of the universe?
* Are there additional spacetime dimensions?
* What is the nature of the dark energy?
* Are protons unstable?
* How did the Universe begin?
* Did Einstein have the last word on gravity?
* How do cosmic accelerators work and what are they accelerating?
* Are there new states of matter at exceedingly high density and temperature?
* Is a new theory of matter and light needed at the highest energies?
* How were the elements from iron to uranium made?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Famous Chess Players Quiz

1. Which country has produced the greatest number of Chess Champions?
2. Who is regarded as Chess' first undisputed World Champion?
3. Which player held the title World Champion for the longest period of time?
4. Who is the only American ever to be Chess World Champion?
5. In which city did Boris Spassky lose the World Chess title in 1972?
6. Who was Chess World Champion during World War II?
7. Who defeated Anatoly Karpov to become World Chess Champion in 1985?
8. What is the name of the Rating system used in Chess?
9. What was/is the nationality of the following players
a. Max Euwe b. Jose Capablanca c. Viswanathan Anand d. Mikhael Tal
10. He was World Champion on three occasions, an electrical engineer and a pioneer in early Chess computing. Who was he?


1. Soviet Union (mainly Russia)
2.Wilhem Steinitz
3. Emanuel Lasker - he was World Champion for 27 years straight (1894-1921)
4. Bobby Fischer
5. Reykjavik, Iceland - he lost his title to Bobby Fischer
6. Alexander Alekhine
7. Garry Kasparov - probably the greatest player ever
8. Elo System
9a. Dutch b. Cuban c. Indian d. Russian
10. Mikhael Botvinnik

Tennis Quiz

1. What are the Four Majors of Tennis?
2. Who won the Gran Slam as an amateur in 1962 and as a professional in 1969?
3. What is the name of the Female Version of the Davis Cup?
4. Which male player has won the most majors?
5. How many Wimbledon titles did Pete Sampras win?
6. Who won Wimbledon five times in a row between 1976 and 1980?
7. Who is the youngest male ever player to win a singles major?
8. As of 2009 how many French Opens has Rafael Nadal won?
9. What stadium is home to the French Open?
10. What was the nationality of the 'Four Musketeers'?
11. Who was the last Brit male to win a Wimbledon singles title?
12. Which female player has won the most majors?
13. Who completed a Grand Slam in 1988?
14. How many Wimbledon singles titles has Martina Navratilova won?
15. In what city is the Australian Open played?
16. Who tennis player recently admitted to using Crystal Meth?
17. Which Australian doubles pairing were known as the 'Woodies'?
18. Who defeated Kevin Curren to win Wimbledon at the tender age of 17?
19. Which tennis player was nicknamed Little Mo?
20. Who is the only Black male player ever to have won Wimbledon?


1. Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
2. Rod Laver
3. Federation Cup
4. Roger Federer with 15 titles so far
5. Seven (to tie him with Willie Renshaw)
6. Bjorn Borg
7. Michael Chang - he won the French Open in 1989 aged 17 years and 3 months.
8. Four - all in a row
9. Roland Garros
10. They were all French male players in the 1920s and 1930s - Jean Borota, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste
11. Fred Perry. He won the thid of his three straight Wimbledons in 1936. Perry was also the first player to complete a career Grand Slam (all four majors).
12. Margaret Court with 24. Steffi Graf won 22, Helen Wills Moody 19 and Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova 18 each. Court has also won more singles, doubles and mixed doubles major titles than any other player - 62 altogether (three ahead of Navratilova).
13. Steffi Graf
14. Nine titles
15. Melbourne
16. Andre Agassi
17. Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde - arguably the greatest males double pairing ever.
18. Boris Becker - the German won a total of three Wimbledons and six majors altogether
19. Maureen Connolly - she was the first woman ever to complete a season Grand Slam
20. Arthur Ashe in 1975

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Religulous..Movie Review

I finally saw the documentary movie Religulous and my feelings are somewhat mixed. While I generally agree with Maher about 60% of the time on most issues - mainly the Middle East, debunking 911 stupidities, scientific rationalism, free speech etc - his smugness and know it all approach are often nauseating. In Religulous the tone of his arguments as well as his selected editing reflect this sentiment. Nevertheless the movie is worth seeing - if for nothing else in the way it highlights the absurdities that underpin organized belief.

It is clear from the beginning that Maher's principal target is Christianity but he takes bold swipes at Judaism, Islam, Mormonism and Scientology as well. Hinduism is mentioned in a cursory level while Buddhism and Sikhism (not to mention Jainism and Zoroastrianism) are left untouched.

Maher's principal thesis is that religious faith is inconsistent with rationalism and is therefore non-sensical. In such regards Maher fails, in that he uses as does Richard Dawkins, the most extreme examples to make his case. He also conveniently fails to mention the range of debate that exist particularly within Judaism and Christianity on interpretation of the texts and therefore leaves the viewer with the impression that most religious believer are literalists who cannot tell the difference between myth and fact.

In such a regards Maher is intellectually dishonest. He also polarizers (like his buddy Michael Moore) to portray and ironically falls short of the standards of scientific rationalism that he claims to espouse.

Despite such shortcomings he does succeed as an entertainer. Ever the comedian his interviews are highlighted with a quick wit that made me chuckle loudly on several occasions.

While Religulous has its merits it is far (very far) from brilliant. Couple that with Maher's Moral Equivalency rant against all of organized religion (in his closing remarks) and the porosity of his thought is exposed. In short he provides an 'oompa-loompa' treatment of a topic begging for scholastic rigour.

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Things that annoy me about the climate change debate

1. Misinformation - both sides are guilty of it.
2. People who believe that the science is 100% settled when science is never a 100% settled - that is not how science works.
3. Selective interpretation of data.
4. Extrapolations of convenience.
5. The host of so-called blinkered experts (many with a very limited scientific background).
6. Politics dictating science.
7. Fear mongering as a form of reasoning.
8. Decisions being made on emotion only.
9. The muzzling of the debate
10. Name calling - Warmists, climate change deniers etc.
11. The overplay of the 'think of the children' argument.
12. Irrationalism...tons of it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

World Cities

As anyone who knows me can attest - I am a general knowledge/trivia junkie. I therefore take some joy in posting this
Source: World Atlas

1. Tokyo, Japan - 28,025,000 - Still leading by a country mile despite the low Japanese birthrate.
2. Mexico City, Mexico - 18,131,000
3. Mumbai, India - 18,042,000 - has really moved up over the last fifteen years
4. Sáo Paulo, Brazil - 17, 711,000 - Largest city in South America
5. New York City, USA - 16,626,000 - Largest US City
6. Shanghai, China - 14,173,000
7. Lagos, Nigeria - 13,488,000 - Another newcomer - driven by the explosive Nigerian birthrate. Now the most populous city in Africa.
8. Los Angeles, USA - 13,129,000
9. Calcutta, India - 12,900,000
10. Buenos Aires, Argentina - 12,431,000
11. Seóul, South Korea - 12,215,000 - Over a quarter of South Koreans live here.
12. Beijing, China - 12,033,000
13. Karachi, Pakistan - 11,774,000 - Largest City with predominant Muslim population
14. Delhi, India - 11,680,000
15. Dhaka, Bangladesh - 10,979,000
16. Manila, Philippines - 10,818,000
17. Cairo, Egypt - 10,772,000 - Largest Arab City.
18. Õsaka, Japan - 10,609,000
19. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10,556,000
20. Tianjin, China - 10,239,000 - China's #3 city.
21. Jakarta, Indonesia - 9,815,000
22. Paris, France - 9,638,000 - Largest City in Europe.
23. Istanbul, Turkey - 9,413,000
24. Moscow, Russian Fed. - 9,299,000
25. London, United Kingdom - 7,640,000 - In 1900 it was the #1 city.
26. Lima, Peru - 7,443,000
27. Tehrãn, Iran - 7,380,000
28. Bangkok, Thailand - 7,221,000
29. Chicago, USA - 6,945,000 - Has been #3 in the US since the 1980s.
30. Bogotá, Colombia - 6,834,000

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In the News LXIV

Continuing with my In the News Series

1000 Environmental Protesters arrested in Copenhagen
Getting arrested seems like a rite of passage for environmentalists..
Not sure why they are demonstrating for...The fact that the conference iws taking place in the first place is indicative of the fact that their message has been heard. I guess the nagging never ends.........

Obama on the Just War in Afghanistan
He is looking more centrist which is a positive outcome. The daggers from the left are being sharpened as we speak.

The US Economy: Sluggish recovery continues
Brings into focus that eternal question....Was the stimulus package really necessary? Or would, as I think, the economy recover more rapidly if just left alone.

Gordon Brown reveals his cluelessness about the scientific process with a ridiculous statement about climate sceptics and their equivalency with Flat Earthers. Counting down until the Brits toss Labour out of Office...

Gaza thugs are back at it again firing rockets at Israel.
Of course if Israel responds they will be condemned by the UN for defending themselves.

More Palestinian stalling on Peace Process
Abbas once again talks through both sides of his mouth.

Three cheers for the Democracy Movement in Iran
Obama let down the Democracy movement on one occasion already...lets hope he gets his act together the next time he is called to do so.

Angela Merkel going for a second term in Deutschland
She seems very matronly but she is a 'helluva' improvement over the scheister
Gerhard Schroder

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Science and Religion.......not again

Its amazing how many people on both sides of the political/worldview divide have the impression that if you believe in G-d you cannot truly be a man of science. My students constantly bring this point up and are surprised when I tell them that the two are not mutually exclusive. While it is true that no definitive proof for G-d exists within the frame of logic that underpins science this in no way invalidates G-d.

Lets not forget that science operates within limits - limits set by empirical evidence and the self-contained rationalism that allow us (as scientists) to infer from the evidence available. Like any system of knowledge it also accepts certain constructs apriori and as Godel showed with his incompleteness theorem, cannot be verifiable within itself. Nevertheless science is the best system for elucidating the mysteries of the universe as it constantly requires more stringent levels of checking and retesting. Couple this with the strength of Popper's falsification argument and it is easy to see why science is successful as a epistemological tool (its also why those who argue that climate change is a fact and that this point need not be debated are in reality anti-scientific).

Science has played a vital role in my life and I am deeply passionate about my commitment to it. However I choose not to succumb to the lure of scientism, a barren locale that seems to attract more than its fair share of individuals. My ultimate belief is that there is simply more out there than what science can ever hope to deliver. Can I prove this? Not anymore than a gnat can understand calculus..... but so what? My life is hardly poorer for the uncertainty (and faith) that I permit and I am no less enthralled by my personal championing of physics - my favourite science.

I am not a biblical literalist in that I see that what purports to be the bible as a mixture (albeit a valuable one) of oral history and ancient mythology. I have also dismissed the scientific validity of intelligent design. Darwin's descent with modification makes sense to me, but at the same time I am skeptical of the random mutation arguments so favoured by the various Neo-Darwinian schools. I am more inclined to see evolutionary changes being driven by systems of self-organization. A methodology that is likely to be explained by science although not within the paradigm from which it currently operates at present.

(Thomas Kuhn was correct in his assessment of how science evolves from periods of gradualism to those of radical transformation - its ironic how this philosophy parallels Gould and Elridge's model of Punctuated Equilibrium).

Physicist-theologian Ian Barbour writes extensively about the interaction of science and religion and from his work I take much solice in an integrationist model that seeks to build connections instead of divide. For me this makes sense and it is from this platform that I see the world - open to reason but at the same time mindful about a greater presence that exists.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

On Obama and Afghanistan

by Peter Worthington (Toronto Sun)
Source: Toronto Sun

As a speech, it was slick and persuasive, but it wasn't Churchill.

No "we will fight on the beaches ... we will never surrender" rhetoric from President Barack Obama, as he pledged 30,000 more American troops to his "surge" in Afghanistan.

While falling short of Churchill in the early dark days of the Second World War, or Henry V's "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" speech before the Battle of Agincourt, it was still a speech that should win support among Americans.

The trouble is, while saying all the right things about defeating al-Qaida and curtailing the Taliban, one wasn't sure just how serious Obama is in his pledge to succeed.

As has been pointed out, his commitment of 30,000 more American troops is three-quarters the number his general running the Afghanistan war, Stanley McChrystal, asked for several months ago, while Obama thought it over.
Again, Obama said his commitment was "to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure" -- but that he's going to withdraw American troops in 18 months.

To some, that doesn't sound very committed.

So he's given the military until July 2011 to crush al-Qaida, roust the Taliban, train and build the Afghan National Army and police into functioning entities that can protect their own country.

Not easy, especially after eight years of occupying Afghanistan and no great improvement in local forces.

Still, Afghanistan is now Obama's war, just as Iraq was George Bush's war.
And while Obama declared the success of Iraq (one hopes he is right, even though he gave no credit to Bush), success (much less victory) in Afghanistan is much more tenuous.

Obama expects, or hopes for, 10,000 more NATO troops joining his "surge." The trouble is, NATO countries mostly shy away from committing fighting soldiers. Some 43 countries are involved in Afghanistan, and if they shared the urgency expressed by Obama, the task would be easier.

Obama made no mention of Canada in his speech -- the country that carried the heaviest load and did most of the gritty fighting in the volatile Kandahar region until the Americans took over.

Canada feels it has done enough, deserves a respite. Obama recognizes and accepts this. It could be noted, too, that Canadian troops have kicked the enemy's ass on every engagement, and set a positive example for the Marines who are going to be taking over.


Obama broke down the present campaign into three goals -- the military, or fighting part; mobilizing civilian competence; cooperating with Pakistan.
All valid, but the latter two hinge on the success of the first -- defeating the enemy in the field and shutting down the Taliban.

Unfortunately, Obama has also to appease, or tranquilize, the lib-left faction of the Democratic party which favours complete withdrawal and isolation. Hence the defensive nature of his speech -- sort of: "We'll try this, hope it works, but we're getting out in 18 months."

That's bound to reassure al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Deadlines or firm withdrawal dates in war make no sense if victory is the goal. Yet politicians feel they must impose them to pacify the electorate.
So perhaps Obama is more determined than he seems.

But don't count on it.

Post on the Genetics of Intelligence

I found this on Dissecting Leftism. Key Ideas are highlighted.

Original Source:

It is obvious that life experiences have some influences on us. Chinese kids grow up speaking Chinese, for instance. But genetics are also powerful and the latest research indicates that they do to a remarkable extent overwhelm environmental influences. Environmental handicaps tend to fade in importance as we get older. Abstract of the latest paper on the heritability of IQ below:

The heritability of general cognitive ability increases linearly from childhood to young adulthoodBy C M A Haworth et al.

Although common sense suggests that environmental influences increasingly account for individual differences in behavior as experiences accumulate during the course of life, this hypothesis has not previously been tested, in part because of the large sample sizes needed for an adequately powered analysis. Here we show for general cognitive ability that, to the contrary, genetic influence increases with age. The heritability of general cognitive ability increases significantly and linearly from 41% in childhood (9 years) to 55% in adolescence (12 years) and to 66% in young adulthood (17 years) in a sample of 11 000 pairs of twins from four countries, a larger sample than all previous studies combined. In addition to its far-reaching implications for neuroscience and molecular genetics, this finding suggests new ways of thinking about the interface between nature and nurture during the school years. Why, despite life's 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune', do genetically driven differences increasingly account for differences in general cognitive ability? We suggest that the answer lies with genotype–environment correlation: as children grow up, they increasingly select, modify and even create their own experiences in part based on their genetic propensities.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

General Knowledge Quiz

Answers soon............

What is the capital of the Czech Republic?
Who was the loser General at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815?
Which Canadian PM cancelled the Avro arrow?
In which city was the First Modern Olympic Games held?
Who wrote the opera Carmen?
Which actor won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs?
Which singer was married to Kevin Federline?
Who did Muhammad Ali defeat in the Rumble in the Jungle?
Who sculpted the ‘Thinker’?
Who wrote Don Giovanni?
With what do we associate Joseph Lister?
Who was the French King at the Time of the Revolution in 1789?
Which American General was notorious for his March on the South?
Who headed American forces in Vietnam?
Who was Prime Minister of Britain during the Falkland Wars?
With which Canadian Prime Minister do we associate the FLQ Crisis?
Which biologist discovered the Alpha Helix Structure?
With which field of Science do we associate Hutton, Lyell and Cuvier?
What is the most common Nobel Gas on Earth?
What is the outermost layer of the sun known as?
Who wrote Jailhouse Rock?
Which musical is based on a novel by Victor Hugo?
Who wrote the Three Musketeers?
What was the last Chinese dynasty?
Who was India’s First Prime Minister?
Which Country won Soccer’s First world Cup?
Which two Universities row against each other in an annual race?
Who is America’s longest serving President?
What state was Ronald Reagan a governor?
Who painted the Sistine Chapel?
Who invented the Reflecting Telescope?
Who is the Father of the Printing Press?
With which Baseball team do we associate Ted Williams?
What sport was played by Jim Brown?
Who was assassinated on the Ides of March?
Who are the Three Patriarchs mentioned in Genesis?
What is the Haj?
What in Buddhism is Dharma?
Which religion speaks about the Wheel of Life?
Which scientist is associated with the first Nuclear Chain reaction?
What are the only two elements that are liquid at room temperature?
With which Superhero do we associate Bob Kane?
Which Group wrote ‘Yellow Submarine’?
Who wrote the song “Pretty Woman’?
Who wrote, directed and acted in the movie Rocky?
Which national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key?
What is the largest Pyramid?
Who was the famous son of Philip of Macedonia?
Which Canadian politician won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work around resolving the Suez Canal crisis?
Who defeated Barry Goldwater in the 1964 US Presidential election?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

CRU Climategate Scandal

This from the NY Times.........
Author: John Tierney

If you have not delved into the thousands of e-mail messages and files hacked from the computers of British climate scientists, let me give you the closest thing to an executive summary. It is taken from a file slugged HARRY_READ_ME, which is the log of a computer expert’s long struggle to make sense of a database of historical temperatures. Here is Harry’s summary of the situation:


That cry, in various spellings, is a motif throughout the log as Harry tries to fight off despair. “OH [EXPLETIVE] THIS!” he writes after struggling to reconcile readings from weather stations around the world. “It’s Sunday evening, I’ve worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done I’m hitting yet another problem that’s based on the hopeless state of our databases. There is no uniform data integrity. ...”

Harry, whoever he may be, comes off as the most sympathetic figure in the pilfered computer annals of East Anglia University, the British keeper of global temperature records. While Harry’s log shows him worrying about the integrity of the database, the climate scientists are e-mailing one another with strategies for blocking outsiders’ legal requests to see their data.

While Harry is puzzling over temperatures — “I have that familiar Twilight Zone sensation” — the scientists are confidently making proclamations to journalists, jetting to conferences and plotting revenge against those who question the dangers of global warming. When a journal publishes a skeptic’s paper, the scientists e-mail one another to ignore it. They focus instead on retaliation against the journal and the editor, a project that is breezily added to the agenda of their next meeting: “Another thing to discuss in Nice!”

As the scientists denigrate their critics in the e-mail messages, they seem oblivious to one of the greatest dangers in the climate-change debate: smug groupthink. These researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude — and ultimately undermine their own cause.

Consider, for instance, the phrase that has been turned into a music video by gleeful climate skeptics: “hide the decline,” used in an e-mail message by Phil Jones, the head of the university’s Climatic Research Unit. He was discussing the preparation of a graph for the cover of a 1999 report from the World Meteorological Organization showing that temperatures in the past several decades were the highest of the past millennium.

Most of the graph was based on analyses of tree rings and other “proxy” records like ice cores and lake sediments. These indirect measurements indicated that temperatures declined in the middle of the millennium and then rose in the first half of the 20th century, which jibes with other records. But the tree-ring analyses don’t reveal a sharp warming in the late 20th century — in fact, they show a decline in temperatures, contradicting what has been directly measured with thermometers.

Because they considered that recent decline to be spurious, Dr. Jones and his colleagues removed it from part of the graph and used direct thermometer readings instead. In a statement last week, Dr. Jones said there was nothing nefarious in what they had done, because the problems with the tree-ring data had been openly identified earlier and were known to experts.

But the graph adorned the cover of a report intended for policy makers and journalists. The nonexperts wouldn’t have realized that the scariest part of that graph — the recent temperatures soaring far above anything in the previous millennium — was based on a completely different measurement from the earlier portion. It looked like one smooth, continuous line leading straight upward to certain doom.

The story behind that graph certainly didn’t show that global warming was a hoax or a fraud, as some skeptics proclaimed, but it did illustrate another of their arguments: that the evidence for global warming is not as unequivocal as many scientists claim. (Go to for details.)

In fact, one skeptic raised this very issue about tree-ring data in a comment posted in 2004 on RealClimate, the blog operated by climate scientists. The comment, which questioned the propriety of “grafting the thermometer record onto a proxy temperature record,” immediately drew a sharp retort on the blog from Michael Mann, an expert at Penn State University:

“No researchers in this field have ever, to our knowledge, ‘grafted the thermometer record onto’ any reconstruction. It is somewhat disappointing to find this specious claim (which we usually find originating from industry-funded climate disinformation Web sites) appearing in this forum.”

Dr. Mann now tells me that he was unaware, when he wrote the response, that such grafting had in fact been done in the earlier cover chart, and I take him at his word. But I don’t see why the question was dismissed so readily, with the implication that only a tool of the fossil-fuel industry would raise it.

Contempt for critics is evident over and over again in the hacked e-mail messages, as if the scientists were a priesthood protecting the temple from barbarians. Yes, some of the skeptics have political agendas, but so do some of the scientists. Sure, the skeptics can be cranks and pests, but they have identified genuine problems in the historical reconstructions of climate, as in the debate they inspired about the “hockey stick” graph of temperatures over the past millennium.

It is not unreasonable to give outsiders a look at the historical readings and the adjustments made by experts like Harry. How exactly were the readings converted into what the English scientists describe as “quality controlled and homogenised” data?

Trying to prevent skeptics from seeing the raw data was always a questionable strategy, scientifically. Now it looks like dubious public relations, too.

In response to the furor over the climate e-mail messages, there will be more attention than ever paid to those British temperature records, and any inconsistencies or gaps will seem more suspicious simply because the researchers were so determined not to reveal them. Skeptical bloggers are already dissecting Harry’s work. As they relentlessly pore over other data, the British scientists will feel Harry’s pain:

Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Letter to a 'Progressive'

I wrote this reply to a so-called progressive.....

Obama was a poor choice from the word go. He lacked the experience for the top job (as did George W. Bush and Sarah Palin – who I certainly do not support). His whole election was contrived by an ‘uncritical media’ (your words not mine) that vaunted him into a position that he is clearly undeserving of. As a long time observer of the US political scene I knew this was the case. While I did not support McCain’s policies on illegal immigration, nor his closeness with the Pro-Life Movement – his experience and know how in building real bridges (not Obama’s perceived bridges) across the political aisle (McCain-Feingold) would have made him a better choice than Obama. His realistic (not wishful and naïve) understanding of global relations and his conceptualization of Islamofascism further add to his credibility here. Unfortunately the downturn in the economy (which both parties share blame), the Sarah Palin fiasco and the free pass given to his Holiness by the Beltway boneheads robbed the US of the better man for the job.

So instead we have a leadership that burdened the American population with a stratospheric debt in following a false economic doctrine that has had virtually no impact in stimulating the economy; vacillated in Afghanistan about a troop surge as Americans soldiers have died, stoked the finger of racism (Skip Gates Affair); introduced a cabal of power Czars answerable only to the President (and therefore violated the spirit of democracy); stood idle while the mullahs throttled the democracy movement in Iran; pandered to Islam with a serious of half-truths that anyone with even a cursory understanding of history could identify (the Cairo speech)l; gave terrorists the same rights as American citizens; attempted to stifle free speech by his attacks on Fox News and other organs critical of him and further polarized the American public by his heavy handidness in introducing Health Care Reform (an ideal that I personally support). His decision to bankroll the Hamas thugs and throw Israel under the bus over the Jerusalem issue is a further indication of an a leader who lacks moral claity..And all of this after less than one year in power.

You are incorrect when you say that Obama’s popularity numbers have dropped because of his betrayal of the ‘progressive’ agenda (I hate it when Leftists talk about themselves as progressives…..What is progressive about Socialism? A movement that flies in the face of human freedom….. or of Communism, Marxism and National Socialism….all of which have bought millions of deaths and much suffering to humanity…yes National Socialism is a leftist philosophy I have addressed this point several times)

I have studied the popularity slump and all the data seems to indicate that he is losing ground amongst white voters, moderates and even those conservatives who backed him initially (I guess they have finally woken up to the Obama Delusion..remember that if weren’t for these voting blocks mentioned above Obama would just be a footnote in American electoral history…like George McGovern in 1972). The ‘progressive’ support is still strong for the Messiah (who else will they back? Perennial loser Dennis Kucinich, Ralph ‘Yesterday’s Man’ Nader, John ‘I cheated on my wife while she had cancer’ Edwards or the now virtually extinct Green Party represented by moonbeamer Cynthia Mc’Stupid’).

Weiner and Grayson are still nobodies. Weiner is ultimately anaethema to the left of the party as he is a Jewish supporter of Israel. The Left of the Democrat Party is fundamentally anti-Israel and in many cases anti-semitic (the former can serve as a smokescreen for the latter). You are however correct in noting that the Republican party is in a mess at this point in time. I have mentioned this several times on my blog. I personally believe that the party has to gravitate more to the center on social issues, maintain a strong opposition to Islamofascism, champion free market ideals but at the same time recognize the necessity of workable environmental policies.

In this respect my thinking is similar to that of David Frum or LGF Blogger Charles Johnson (who has done a great job as of late in bashing the ID movement and the extremists on the Right while at the same time championing Western Ideals). I myself am not a conservative but a Classical Liberal so I have no problem supporting Dems who adhere to the ideals of Daniel Patrick Monihyan (one of my favourite American politicians), Scoop Jackson and Leo Strauss. However I am not convinced that such Democrats still exist.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ian Barbour - When Science Meets Religion

This is arguably one of the best books on Science and Religion for some time. Barbour is a deserving winner of the Templeton Award and I found his four facet model dealing with the relationship between these two avenues of human thought to be very useful

In summary Barbour sees the two mechanisms through the eyes of four different models

Conflict: Where they butt heads eg. - Scientific Materialism vs Biblical Literalism
Independence: Where they ignore one another - Separate Domains and Different Languages and Functions
Dialogue: Interaction in the area of Limit-Questions. Parallels and Common Methodologies
Integration: Incorporating the two dynamics together within the framework of Natural Theology, Theology of Nature or Barbour's favourite Systematic Synthesis.

I myself tend to agree with the Dialogue approach although a part of me yearns for a realistic Integration.

Barbour analyzes these models in the areas of Astronomy and Creation, Quantum Physics, Evolution and Continuing Creation, Neuroscience and Human Nature and finally God and Nature.


I just finished the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers and I still can't see what the fuss is. Yes the Lanagan Oppenheimer comparison was intriguing as was the schtick on Hockey players born in the first half of the year but his analysis of airline accidents and order of hierarchy was a bit tedious as was his endless rambling on about the Jamaican whiteness model. Nevertheless Gladwell's writing style is easy to follow and he knows his pop culture. But for a serious sociological study (if there is indeed such a thing) Outliers falls a bit short of the target.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On the Terror Trials

by Thomas Sowell

In the string of amazing decisions made during the first year of the Obama administration, nothing seems more like sheer insanity than the decision to try foreign terrorists, who have committed acts of war against the United States, in federal court, as if they were American citizens accused of crimes.

Terrorists are not even entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention, much less the Constitution of the United States. Terrorists have never observed, nor even claimed to have observed, the Geneva Convention, nor are they among those covered by it.

But over and above the utter inconsistency of what is being done is the utter recklessness it represents. The last time an attack on the World Trade Center was treated as a matter of domestic criminal justice was after a bomb was exploded there in 1993. Under the rules of American criminal law, the prosecution had to turn over all sorts of information to the defense-- information that told the Al Qaeda international terrorist network what we knew about them and how we knew it.

This was nothing more and nothing less than giving away military secrets to an enemy in wartime-- something for which people have been executed, as they should have been. Secrecy in warfare is a matter of life and death. Lives were risked and lost during World War II to prevent Nazi Germany from discovering that Britain had broken its supposedly unbreakable Enigma code and could read their military plans that were being radioed in that code.

"Loose lips sink ships" was the World War II motto in the United States. But loose lips are mandated under the rules of criminal prosecutions.

Tragically, this administration seems hell-bent to avoid seeing acts of terrorism against the United States as acts of war. The very phrase "war on terrorism" is avoided, as if that will stop the terrorists' war on us.

The mindset of the left behind such thinking was spelled out in an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, which said that "Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the professed mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will be tried the right way-- the American way, in a federal courtroom where the world will see both his guilt and the nation's adherence to the rule of law."

This is not the rule of law but the application of laws to situations for which they were not designed.

For the rest go to:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quantum Loop Gravity

What is Quantum Loop Gravity?
The Quick and Dirty:

A Theory of spacetime
Leading proponents include: Lee Smolin, Carlo Rovelli, John Baez, Roger Penrose and Abhay Ashtekar
Alternative to string theory - views space space as made up of discrete (quantised) loops that mesh together
Loops are spin networks of gravitational fields that have been energized.
In short: It is a quantum theory of Gravity.
It is strongly focused on Geometry
It is background independent

What are the strengths of Quantum Loop Gravity?

It doesn't require the higher dimensions of string theory
Very faithful to General Relativity especially Einstein's field equations
It deals very well with Black Holes
Replaces Big Bang Singularity with a Big Bounce
Can explain a positive cosmological constant

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Attention all Physics Teachers - Read Eric Mazur

The Work of Eric Mazur on Concept Teaching in Physics is excellent. I recently puchased his book Peer Instruction and would urge others to do the same. For more on Mazur's work go to:

In the News LXIII

Massacre at Fort Hood
Despite the Jihadist sympathies of the perpetrator the naysayers are still trying to find other excuses for his actions. What is equally disturbing are the warnings that were apparent before the massacre.

Chavez land grab may influence Catholic Church.
Perhaps he is taking a page from the Radical Jacobins of French Revolution fame. Another worrisome development in the Chavez saga though is a looming military clash with Colombia. The man is a menace - Where is the UN when you need it? I guess they don't have time to worry about real problems when the Joooos are on the agenda elsewhere.

Obama wins one in the House.
I tend to agree with the spirit of his Health care proposals but like many American citizens I am weary of the heavy hand of government that he envisions.

Republican wins in New Jersey and Virginia
If I was a Republican I wouldn't read too much into this (other than the fact that the GOP is clearly not dead - an outrageous analysis after the 2008 election that didn't deserve the news print it got in the firsrt place). Both Democrat governors who were ousted were incompetent and on the same day the Dems picked up two seats in the House including the much coveted NY-23. Nevertheless the results may force a slight rethink in Obama's approach.

US unemployment continues to grow
This despite the 'success of the stimulus package meme' championed by Neo-Keynesian poster boy Paul Krugman. Also the situation is not much better across the pond.

Israel rejects endorsement by UN of Gaza Report.
As it should the report is a travesty of jusice.

More on the 'peaceful' intentions of Hezbollah after rocket seize at sea.

Its an oldie but a gem. Sarkozy reminding Obama about the Real world of politics.

Obama: “We must never stop until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the earth.”

Sarkozy: “We live in the real world, not the virtual world. And the real world expects us to take decisions.”

The rest of Sarkozy’s remarks were, well, remarkable:

“President Obama dreams of a world without weapons … but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite.
“Iran since 2005 has flouted five security council resolutions. North Korea has been defying council resolutions since 1993.
“I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good has proposals for dialogue brought the international community? More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map,” he continued, referring to Israel.
The sharp-tongued French leader even implied that Mr Obama’s resolution 1887 had used up valuable diplomatic energy.
“If we have courage to impose sanctions together it will lend viability to our commitment to reduce our own weapons and to making a world without nuke weapons,” he said.
Mr Sarkozy has previously called the US president’s disarmament crusade “naive.”

Liverpool -The Slide Continues

Its tough to be die hard Liverpool fan these days ( a pedigree I have had since 1976). The Reds are on the verge of elimination from the Champion Leagues having failed to inspire whatsoever. Fortunes in the League are not much better (despite the 2-0 win against Man U two weeks ago - it seems like a blip now). The Reds have lost to the likes of Sunderland and Fulham and sit now with five losses (last season Pool only lost two matches over the 38 game run). However this is not the end - what is most disturbing is that the teams two super stars - Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are facing lost term injury layoffs. Couple this with a manager who seems to be short on ideas and an ownership equally short on finances and one can appreciate my pessimism. I am predicting a seventh place finish for the Reds this season (behind the Big Three as well as Man City, Aston Villa and Spurs). Yes its not pleasant and I have an eerie sensation that this is looking like 98/99 all over again if not the horrific 93/94 season. I hope that I am wrong but sadly this seems unlikely.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Books I am reading

I never read one book at a time after all I have genetic disposition towards multitasking. At present I am reading four books (when I have the chance).

These are Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible , Matin Gardiner's Churchill and the Jews and Robert Wright's The Evolution of God.

Gardiner is excellent as usual, Kaku is highly entertaining but I am finding
Wright's work to be a bit of a slog. Will keep you posted...

Friday, October 30, 2009

How many Multiverses are there?

by Amanda Gefter - New Scientist

HOW many universes are there? Cosmologists Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin at Stanford University in California calculate that the number dwarfs the 10 Exp 500 universes postulated in string theory, and raise the provocative notion that the answer may depend on the human brain.

The idea that there is more than one universe, each with its own laws of physics, arises out of several different theories, including string theory and cosmic inflation. This concept of a "multiverse" could explain a puzzling mystery - why dark energy, the furtive force that is accelerating the expansion of space, appears improbably fine-tuned for life. With a large number of universes, there is bound to be one that has a dark energy value like ours.

Calculating the probability of observing this value - and other features of the cosmos - depends on how many universes of various kinds populate the multiverse. String theory describes 10 Exp 500 universes, but that just counts different vacuum states, which are like the blank canvases upon which universes are painted. The features of each canvas determine what the overall painting will look like - such as the laws of physics in that universe - but not the details.

Thanks to the randomness of quantum mechanics, two identical vacuum states can end up as very different universes. Small quantum fluctuations in the very early universe are stretched to astronomical scales by inflation, the period of faster-than-light expansion just after the big bang. These fluctuations lay down a gravitational blueprint that eventually determines the placement of stars and galaxies across the sky. Small differences in the form of these fluctuations can produce a universe in which the Milky Way is slightly bigger, or closer to its neighbours.

So just how many of these different universes can inflation's quantum fluctuations produce? According to Linde and Vanchurin, the total is about 10 Exp 10 Exp 10,000,000 - that's a 10 raised to a number ending with 10 million zeros ( Suddenly string theory's multiverse of 10 Exp 500 universes is looking rather claustrophobic.

might be, however, that this number is irrelevant, and that in a world ruled by quantum physics what matters is how many universes a single observer can distinguish. "Before quantum mechanics," says Linde, "we thought that 'reality' was a well-defined word." In classical physics, observers are irrelevant - we simply want to know how many universes exist.

For the Rest go to: New Scientist.

The Restricted View - Same Article

Quantum theory splits the world into two parts: the system under study and the rest of the world, which contains the observer. The system hovers in a ghostly state of near-existence made up of a host of possibilities until the observer makes a measurement - and so reduces this to a single reality.

Cosmology suffers from the paradox that no observer can be outside the universe - so the universe is doomed to spend eternity as nothing more than a vague possibility. The lesson of quantum cosmology is that we can't talk about the universe as a whole, but only what a given observer inside it might measure. Applying that lesson to the multiverse, Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin suggest that what matters is not the total number of possible universes, but the number of universes a single observer could distinguish.

If that observer is a human, the brain limits the amount of information they can register. But any observer - even an inanimate one such as a galaxy - is limited in the information it can store. These limitations in what observers can measure whittle down the number of universes that come into play in cosmological predictions. That means an observer might make a difference in explaining the value of things like dark energy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seven Questions that Keep Physicists up at night

It's not your average confession show: a panel of leading physicists spilling the beans about what keeps them tossing and turning in the wee hours.

That was the scene a few days ago in front of a packed auditorium at the Perimeter Institute, in Waterloo, Canada, when a panel of physicists was asked to respond to a single question: "What keeps you awake at night?"

The discussion was part of "Quantum to Cosmos", a 10-day physics extravaganza, which ends on Sunday.

While most panelists professed to sleep very soundly, here are seven key conundrums that emerged during the session, which can be viewed here.

Why this universe?

In their pursuit of nature's fundamental laws, physicists have essentially been working under a long standing paradigm: demonstrating why the universe must be as we see it. But if other laws can be thought of, why can't the universes they describe exist in some other place? "Maybe we'll find there's no other alternative to the universe we know," says Sean Carroll of Caltech. "But I suspect that's not right." Carroll finds it easy to imagine that nature allows for different kinds of universes with different laws. "So in our universe, the question becomes why these laws and not some other laws?"

What is everything made of?

It's now clear that ordinary matter – atoms, stars and galaxies – accounts for a paltry 4 per cent of the universe's total energy budget. It's the other 96 per cent that keeps University of Michigan physicist Katherine Freese engaged. Freese is excited that one part of the problem, the nature of dark matter, may be nearing resolution. She points to new data from experiments like NASA's Fermi satellite that are consistent with the notion that dark matter particles in our own galaxy are annihilating with one another at a measurable rate, which in turn could reveal their properties. But the discovery of dark energy, which appears to be speeding up the expansion of the universe, has created a vast new set of puzzles for which there are no immediate answers in sight. This includes the nature of the dark energy itself and the question of why it has a value that is so extraordinarily small, allowing for the formation of galaxies, stars and the emergence of life.

How does complexity happen?

From the unpredictable behaviour of financial markets to the rise of life from inert matter, Leo Kadananoff, physicist and applied mathematician at the University of Chicago, finds the most engaging questions deal with the rise of complex systems. Kadanoff worries that particle physicists and cosmologists are missing an important trick if they only focus on the very small and the very large. "We still don't know how ordinary window glass works and keeps it shape," says Kadanoff. "The investigation of familiar things is just as important in the search for understanding." Life itself, he says, will only be truly understood by decoding how simple constituents with simple interactions can lead to complex phenomena.

Will string theory ever be proved correct?

Cambridge physicist David Tong is passionate about the mathematical beauty of string theory – the idea that the fundamental particles we observe are not point-like dots, but rather tiny strings. But he admits it once brought him to a philosophical crisis when he realised he might live his entire life not knowing whether it actually constitutes a description of all reality. Even experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider and the Planck satellite, while well positioned to reveal new physics, are unlikely to say anything definitive about strings. Tong finds solace in knowing that the methods of string theory can be brought to bear on less fundamental problems, such as the behaviour of quarks and exotic metals. "It is a useful theory," he says, "so I'm trying to concentrate on that."

For the rest go to New Scientist

How your brain creates the Fourth Dimension

From New Scientist...

THE MAN dangles on a cable hanging from an eight-storey-high tower. Suspended in a harness with his back to the ground, he sees only the face of the man above, who controls the winch that is lifting him to the top of the tower like a bundle of cargo. And then it happens. The cable suddenly unclips and he plummets towards the concrete below

Panic sets in, but he's been given an assignment and so, fighting his fear of death, he stares at the instrument strapped to his wrist, before falling into the sweet embrace of a safety net. A team of scientists will spend weeks studying the results.

The experiment was extreme, certainly, but the neuroscientist behind the study, David Eagleman at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, is no Dr Strangelove. When we look back at scary situations, they often seem to have occurred in slow motion. Eagleman wanted to know whether the brain's clock actually accelerates - making external events appear abnormally slow in comparison with the brain's workings - or whether the slo-mo is just an artefact of our memory.

It's just one of many mysteries concerning how we experience time that we are only now beginning to crack. "Time," says Eagleman, "is much weirder than we think it is."

By understanding the mechanisms of our brain's clock, Eagleman and others hope to learn ways of temporarily resetting its tick. This might improve our mental speed and reaction times. What's more, since time is crucial to our perception of causality, a faulty internal clock might also explain the delusions suffered by people with schizophrenia.

For the rest go to: New Scientist

Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0

After Four defeats in all competitions this victory was most welcome. The Reds are 6th in the League and only 6 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Other great results:
Bolton 3 Everton 2
Man City 2 Fulham 2 (Sky Blues drop points)
West Ham 2 Arsenal 2 (Ditto for Gunners)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A great way to learn physics

Build one of these............
Source: Wondercoaster

Another Stupid Nazi Comparison

Yes that are innately stupid but even more ridiculous when they are sprouted by that so-called cunning linguist Noam Chomsky

Gushing Over Obama

Much ink has been wasted praising the 'mighty one'...but I had to laugh at this about a man crush

An Excellent Physics Resource Site

I encourage all High School and AP Physics teachers to check out this amazing Resource Site.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Teacher's Diary Week 6

Well ....I have finally finished the Optics Unit with the Grade 10's and we will be embarking on the Climate Change Strand next week. The latter is a new unit that incorporates, but does not include all of the topics discussed under the old climatology unit of the previous curriculum. While the expectations are straight forward I believe that the skill section of this unit will allow the students to better interpret data and apply reason and critical thought to the analysis of such information. I will attempt to encourage as much debate as possible as the nebulous nature of the specifics of the topic begs for such an approach.

In the Grade 11 Physics course the kids are all gung-ho about their Wondercoasters (a roller coaster contest run by Canada's Wonderland). On the more formal side we are working through Newton's Laws, clearing up the obvious misconceptions as we go along. The students seem to be coming to terms with the importance of Free Body Diagrams and attacked the lab work with much enthusiasm. So far so good....but lets see what the quizzes deliver.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No Sarcasm Intended.....

Chavez's thuggery continues

Pro-Chavez lawmakers deny the government plans to use the militias to break up street protests, saying the armed groups would be deployed only if Chavez declared martial law amid widespread political upheaval or natural disasters.

The predominantly pro-Chavez National Assembly approved the legislation Tuesday, giving a legal framework for a project begun by Chavez more than three years ago, when volunteers began receiving military training to prepare for what the leftist leader warned could be a U.S. invasion.

His critics expressed skepticism.

"The militias are for intimidating and terrorizing" those who take to the streets to protest against Chavez, said Stalin Gonzalez, an opposition politician who helped organize anti-Chavez demonstrations in recent years as a university student.

Source: Taiwan News

Quote of the Week

Republican Rep. Gresham Barrett on Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize

"I'm not sure what the international community loved best," said Republican Rep. Gresham Barrett, a candidate for governor in South Carolina, "his waffling on Afghanistan, pulling defense missiles out of Eastern Europe, turning his back on freedom fighters in Honduras, coddling Castro, siding with the Palestinians against Israel, or almost getting tough on Iran."

Source: Chicago Tribune

Teacher's Diary - Weeks 3,4 and 5

To say that I am buried in work is an understatement. However its part of my role as a teacher and I wouldn't have it any other way. The new school is looking promising and the kids are great. We have all sorts of clubs and there are many students who are clearly not afraid to go above and beyond the curriculum. As someone dedicated to education this resonates very well with me.

I am closing on completing the Optics section with my Grade 10s. They write their unit ending test this coming week and have a kaleidoscope design project to hand in a few days later. It is important to keep challenging the 10s and encouraging an appreciation of the sciences as their follow through influences the future of our department and ultimately the school. Thankfully we have the support of the parents and the administration on this matter and have no shortage of students wishing to sign up for the myriad of science competitions that are now common place at the senior high school level.

On the physics front (with my Grade 11s) I have just started the Mechanics section having completed the Kinematics Unit. I spent some time on Projectile motion (PM)attacking the subject with computer simulations, discovery/thinking lab work and problems. PM can be a difficult topic for the students to master as they are still trying to come to terms with the idea of resolving a vector into components using the tools of trigonometry. The scaffolding necessary is a bit more intense than other topics and requires constant feedback and multiple assessments.

In short all is well (at least is seems so...I may yet get mugged around the corner). There are still some issues with respect to helping some of the struggling students with the material that I will work on in the next week or so. I also have a student teacher who will be assigned to me come months end. Since I am a great fan of mentoring I am looking forward to helping another teacher develop their pedagogic potential.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Fifteen Annoyances on the Left

1. Maureen Dowd
2. Thomas Friedman
3. Alexander Cockburn
4. Noam Chomsky
5. Naomi Klein
6. Glenn Greenwald
7. Gore Vidal
8. Michael Lerner
9. Medea Benjamin
10. Avi Lewis
11. Rick Salutin
12. Ted Rall
13. Norman Finkelstein
14. Howard Zinn
15. John Pilger

Fifteen Annoyances on the Right

1. Pat Buchanan
2. Robert Novak (deceased)
3. Joseph Sobran
4. John Sununu
5. Justin Raimondo
6. Paul Craig Roberts
7. Taki
8. Ron Paul
9. Lew Rockwell
10. Paul Gottfried
11. Ann Coulter
12. Bay Buchanan
13. Karl Rove
14. Alex Jones
15. Scott McConnell

My Top Ten Political Pundits

1. Victor Davis Hanson
2. George Jonas
3. Charles Johnson
4. Sultan Knish
5. Jonah Goldberg
6. Steven Plaut
7. Thomas Sowell
8. John Ray
9. Tammy Bruce
10. Dennis Prager

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shana Tova - Happy Jewish New Year to All

Source: Rosh Hashana

Teachers Diary - Week 2

The world continues to be on the up and up for me with respect to teaching. My Physics Grade 11 students delved more firmly into Kinematics with a non-traditional ticker tape run where they determined their own acceleration. They then worked on a computer simulation program designed to reinforce the difference between position, velocity and acceleration (kids for the most part love computer simulation labs) and I have made a concerted effort to encourage the teachers in the department to make better use of such resources. The Gizmo site, Halliday and Resnick and PHET are all worth looking at. The week ended with a quiz and their teacher attempting the classic coin and feather free fall experiment.

The Grade 10 Students seemed to master a basic understanding of the law of reflections however they now need to extend their understanding by applying these principles to concave and convex mirrors. Next week will be the true test. I am also moving toward organizing a building project for them - the design of a kaleidoscope or a physics magic show (smoke and mirrors) are both being considered.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Picture of the Week - Judge Dredd

Old Stone Face is one of my favourite Comic Book Characters

Source: Efavata

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Teachers Diary - Week 1

It was my first week at the new school and although this is my seventh year as a teacher, week one's are always a bit off putting. Perhaps its the awkwardness of facing a class of fresh faces (and not knowing what to expect)coupled with the unfamiliarity of a school culture that differs remarkably from what I have experienced in the last two years. Nevertheless I believe that I made a strong start and achieved my week`s goals. It hasn't been easy as I have had to complement my teaching with the added responsibility of being Curriculum Leader (Head of the Department). This is demanding but challenging and it is this challenge that I relish (whether I will feel like this at the end of the school year is still up in the aether of uncertainty but for the present time all is well on the admin front...for now).

I have three classes this semester - A grade 10 Academic Science Class and two Grade 11 Physics Sections.
In Science I `threw`the students very early into the Curriculum. We are working on the newly formulated Optics Section and my lesson plans this week dealt with the human eye and its comparison to the camera, the electromagnetic spectrum and methodologies for the production of light. I am more aware than ever of the need to diversify my lessons and Fridays co-operative assignment on making posters to describe various types of light production (with the followup of a crossword) seemed to work well. The demo of producing light through the electric discharge of a gas source (with a Tesla coi)l was well appreciated by the students as was the use of Slinky's to illustrate the wave nature of light. My challenge with the Grade 10s is to incorporate more computer simulations in my pedagogy, a phenomenon that has been made more difficult by the lack of Internet access in the class. However I have initiated an action,as Curriculum Leader, with the board`s computer help desk to rectify the situation ASAP.

In Physics I have been stressing critical thinking. I opened up with a Fermi problem where I asked the students to estimate the number of marbles that could be packed into the room. This caused some initial confusion as many were not used to making assumptions (viz. diameter of the marble, voidage space, dimensions of the room etc) but after the dust it settled the solutions began to flow. Most attempts were valid but several students erred in making the correct conversion from cubic meters to cubic centimeters. Fermi problems are incredible devices for stressing the importance not only of reasonable assumptions but of order of magnitude approximation. This is a foreign concept for many students schooled in the hard philosophy of the exact answer.

Once the logistics of unit conversion and significant numbers were addressed (its amazing how many students have no idea why significant digits are so important), we spent time, via the mechanism of the faithful Socratic in discussing the importance of the three critical entities: mass, length and time. I then did a review of some key concepts from Grade 10 Kinematics (position, distance, velocity types - instantaneous, average, uniform, displacement and acceleration). Early diagnostics indicate that the students have strong mathematical skills and we really enjoyed breaking down the dynamics of the Usain Bolt Olympic run and the Donovan Bailey-Michael Johnson fastest man scenario.

My conclusion is that this will be a fun year. I can push these students to excel and we can really entertain the curriculum at its fullest.

Friday, September 04, 2009

In the News LXII

Healthcare takes a toll on Obama approval rating
Looks like the gloss is coming off the 'enlightened one' - about bloody time.

Anti-Chavez marchers take to the street
Relations continue to deteriorate between Colombia and Venezuela...Colombians are correct not to trust the growing influence of Chavez in Latin America (especially in light of his suppression of media criticism and opposition voices in Venezuela).

Iran places a terrorist in its new cabinet
No surprise here...Ahmadinejad is solidifying his lock in government....He knows for one that an US Administration will not call him on this one...Obama didn't even back up the protests from two months ago.

Canada's Hate Crime Law unconstitutional
On the surface it looks like a victory for Freedom of Speech but we will have to wait and see.

Web of complexity around Afghani election grows
Karzai is untrustworthy but the alternatives seem worse.

Netanyahu faces challenge from his own cabinet regarding concessions
Its the same story all over again...I personally support the right of Jews to live anywhere in the Jerusalem vicinity but I am not in favour of added settlements in the West Bank. I do detest the involvement of a busy body such as Desmond Tutu who by their comments, as outlined in the Australian article cited, appear to only have a rudimentary understanding of the issues at hand.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Twenty Annoyances

1. The whole Jon and Kate break up
2. Whitewashed Ted Kennedy Eulogies and Obituaries
3. Manchester United winning another EPL title
4. The Michael Jackson 'Homicides' debacle
5. Michael Ignatieff and yet another 'call' for an election
6. Lindsey Lohan
7. Obama's relentless criticism of Israel
8. Jon Stewart's ego
9. Letterman trying to sound intelligent
10. Hugo Chavez and the growing dictatorship in Venezuela
11. Another rant by the New Atheists
12. Conservatives turning a blind eye to the many faults of Robert Novack
13. David Miller's tenure as mayor of Toronto
14. Jimmy Carter - International bungler and meddler
15. Contracts for Professional Sportsmen
16. The Steroid Saga in Baseball
17. Ap0logists on the Left/Paleo Right for Islamist radicalism.
18. Keynesian economic proponents
19. There should be 'no debate about Global Warming crowd'
20. Politicians who oppose school vouchers and then send their own kids to private schools (Barack Obama)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Philosophical Confirmation

1. I tend to agree with the sceptics movement in their rigorous defence of science but I am somewhat ….can I say it…sceptical…..about their use of logical positivist arguments in tackling the question of God’s existence. In this sense my position is similar to the well known mathematics promoter and critical thinker Martin Gardiner.

2. Classical Liberalism in my opinion balances both the excesses of the left and the right very well, taking the strong points from each philosophy and rejecting the nonsense (which abounds on both sides). In short it champions valuable tradition and human freedom while making a strong argument for necessary government.
3. I was attracted to Libertarianism several years ago but ultimately rejected its narrow outlook and recourse to selfishness…like Marxism its emphasis on utopianism is dangerous. Nevertheless the contribution by Libertarian thinkers such as Friedman, Nozick, Van Mises and Hayek (who would reject the label) are critical to effective economic thinking. Ron Paul and the Cato crowd best exemplify the Libertarian tradition today but I find that their tendency to dismiss the flow of history at the expense of the wealth index problematic and not conducive to a thorough understanding of the human condition.

4. Victor Davis Hanson and George Jonas are two thinkers who characterize the Classical Liberal tradition. Both are ardent defenders of Western Civilization and have a deep understanding of the ongoing struggle against totalitarianism – whether it be socialist, Marxist, national socialist, fascist or Islamist. Others who encapsulate the Classical Liberal tradition are Charles Johnson and David Frum.

5. Classic Liberals are not to be confused with neo-conservatives. While leading neo-conservative thinkers: Leo Strauss and Scoop Jackson are off shoots of the Classic Liberal tradition they tend to be more interventionist with respect to foreign policy than are pure Classic Liberals.