Friday, July 30, 2010


I encourage anyone who has (as I do) a love for physics, the examination of human consciousness, dream theory and/0r science fiction to see this excellent movie. It was far superior to the Matrix and was truly worth the cost of admission and then some more. Leonardo di Caprio was once again superb in the lead role but what was most capitivating was the originality of the script, the flow of the plot and the captivating style of directing.
As a physics teacher I especially loved the exploration of the Equivalence Principle as well as the use of the construct of time dilation.

Ranking: 9/10

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On Afghanistan

I have always been of two minds concerning Western Intervention in Afghanistan. Part of me sees the whole exercise as futile and cries out for withdrawal while on the other hand my inner conscious balks at any form of capitulation in the struggle against what can only be described as a barbarism. To better look at the issue it is necessary to state the givens. This is the reality:

a. Afghanistan is a backwater of a nation with a limited industrial basis, a high level of illiteracy and a largely agricultural based economy.
b. Although it sits on great mineral wealth (some say in the trillions of dollars) its resources are largely untapped.
c. Opium production is a key ingredient of the GNP.
d. The population is fragmented, tribalized and driven by clan loyalties. Ethnic differences (Pushtans, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Persians) are pervasive across the country.
e. Corruption is a way of life.
f. Islam is very much molded into the collective psyche of the population.
g. Consistent war and conflict since the 70's have defined the nation.
h. Due to high birth rates the average age of the population is very young.
i. Its difficult to find trustworthy allies as the historical tendency is for the people is to put aside their difference and take arms against foreigners (the British Empire and the Soviets can attest to this).
j. The terrain favours guerrilla warfare tactics.
k. NATO's so-called ally in this region, Pakistan, appears to be playing both sides of the fence.
l. Hamid Karzai the West's s0-called front man in Kabul is the political equivalent of a snake in the grass.
m. Iran has been gaining momentum in the region as of late

If NATO withdraws unconditionally within the next year this is the most likely scenario

a. Karzai's government in Kabul falls to the Taliban after holding out for several months. Karzai flees Afghanistan and is given asylum in the West. (The Taliban are better motivated and more organized than the Afghan regulars).
b. Warlord controlled region's resist Taliban intrusion.
c. Country returns to its 2002 makeup although the Taliban are less likely to be as dominant as they prior to 2002.
d. Taliban reopens its links with radical Islamists who will see the withdrawal of NATO as a great victory for their cause.
e. The Suppression of Women and the collapse of human rights begins anew.

What does the West gain from such a move?

1. Western military lives will be saved. On the other hand Afghani population deaths will most likely increase as the Taliban will attempt to purge all opposition.
2. A cost saving for the various NATO governments that can then use the savings to pay down their respective debts (yeah right!!!).
3. Money can then be redirected into fighting the more threatening stealth jihad on western shores.

What does the West lose with such a move?

1. Credibility in the War against Radical Islam.
2. Military personnel who have died (or have been wounded) will appear to have done so in vain.
3. With the Western threat removed in Afghanistan Islamists can funnel more of their own finances towards attacking to the US and its allies directly.
4.The NATO initiative of attacking as a way of defending will be lost.
5. Taliban reprisals against the population that opposed them (especially women) will weigh against the Western conscious.

What should the West do?

1. The US needs to be tougher on Pakistan. Weapon supplies to the Taliban must be eliminated.
Obama and co. have to convince Pakistan to come clean with their double talk.
2. The Taliban must be isolated. A divide and conquer strategy could be employed here.
3. The targeting of Taliban leaders for assassination should be given greater consideration.
4. Possibly pay poppy producers not to produce (alliteration aside...) the crop that seems to be directly feeding the Taliban's War Effort.
5. Back a better candidate than Karzai for the Afghani leadership.
6. Bring the more moderate Taliban elements into a government coalition.
7. Step up the process of making the Afghani army more self sufficient.
8. Withdraw in 2014 - Hopefully by then the key regional areas of Afghanistan will be strengthened with anti-Jihadist elements. Afghanistan is not a post World War II Japan (that can be rebuilt in a Western image) one may have to settle with the best of a number of poor options. In short it is an exercise in damage control - and should be treated as such.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

World Cup Review

The 2010 World Cup Ended Two weeks ago. Here is my overall assessment.

1. It was a better World Cup than 1990 and 2002 but not as great as 1982, 1986, 1994, 1998 or 2006.

2. 10 Best player in the tournament:
a. Inietsa - Spain
b. Snjeider- Netherlands
c. Forlan - Uruguay
d. Villa - Spain
e. Muller - Germany
f. Xavi - Spain
g. Puyol - Spain
h. Pique - Spain
i. Donovan - US
j. Kuyt - Netherlands

3. Five teams that impressed:
a. Spain
b. The Dutch (except in the final)
c. Germany
d. The US
e. Japan

4. The Choker Award goes to Argentina

5. Biggest wastes of space: France, Italy, Cameroon.

6. Surprise packages: Uruguay, New Zealand and South Africa.

7. Really Bland Teams: England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Paraguay and North Korea

8. To watch out for in the Future: Germany and Brazil.

9. Critical Items missing from the World Cup (but don't hold your breadth for 2014)
a. Goal Line Technology
b. Professional Referees

10. Weakness of 2010 World Cup - Really poor set plays

John Polkinghorne

John Polkinghorne, the renowned theoretical physicis/anglican priest, is fast becoming one of my favourite thinkers, in the science/religion nexus. Polkinghorne talks about theism, atheism, pantheism, process theology, determinism and other vital constructs in this excellent interview.


Although I am not a Christian (and consequently deviate from Polkinghorne on the issue of the precise nature of the personal G-d) I find his treatment of science and theology to be in strong agreement with my current conceptualization of the relationship of G-d and Science.

Kudos to him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More reasons to ditch the box

I was flipping through the channels on the tube - while exercising on the elliptical- and quickly reached the conclusion that I couldn't care less about what passes for mainstream entertainment these days.
Included in this array of forgettables is the following

1. Mel Gibson's rants
2. Lindsey Lohan's addiction problems
3. American Idol
4. Tea Party vs NAACP mudslinging
5. WWF
6. Oprah and her spin offs
7. Lady Gaga
8. The Le Bron James Decision
9. The Bachelor/Bachelorette
10. Bradgelina
11. Almost everything else on Entertainment Tonight
12. Post G20 whining (Toronto only)
13. Endless hours of economic analysis that doesn't appear to go anywhere
14. Nancy Grace
15. Poker

Friday, July 16, 2010

Big Questions on History

How does history unfold? Is it really driven by the struggle of ideas and movements? Does it have direction? Is it cyclical? Are the patterns real or imagined? These are the questions that intrigue me of late...........more to follow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some of My Faves.....

Areas of Science: 1. Modern Physics 2. Classical Physics 3. Cosmology 4. Evolutionary Theory 5. Psychometrics

Chemists (Top Five): 1. Le Chatelier 2. Mendeleev 3. Dalton 4. Lavoisier 5. Kekule

Physicists (Top Ten): 1. Einstein 2. Newton 3. Schroedinger 4. de Broglie 5. Galileo

6. Bohr 7. Planck 8. Feynman 9. Gell-Mann 10. Maxwell

Biologists: (Top Five): 1. Wallace 2. Hunt Morgan 3. Darwin 4. Harvey 5. Semelweiss

Philosophers: (Top Five): 1. Kierkegaard 2. Spinoza 3. Descartes 4. Kant 5. Mills

Economists: (Top Five): 1. Smith 2. Ricardo 3. Friedman 4. Hayek 5. Nash

US Presidents: 1. Lincoln 2. Reagan 3. Truman 4. Jefferson 5. Kennedy

British Prime Ministers: 1. Churchill 2. Disraeli 3. Gladstone 4. Thatcher 5. Lloyd George

Canadian Prime Ministers: 1. Borden 2. Pearson 3. Laurier

Cricketers 1. Bradman 2. Pollock 3. Truman 4. Richards 5. Sobers

Boxers (Heavyweights): 1. Marciano 2. Ali 3. Louis 4. Behr 5. Lewis

Boxers (Non-Heavyweight): 1. Leonard 2. Hagler 3. Mitchell 4. Conteh 5. Robinson

Tennis Players: 1. McEnroe 2. Federer 3. Becker 4. Edberg 5. Kriek

Athletes 1. Sebastian Coe 2. Daley Thompson 3. Ed Moses 4. Usain Bolt 5. Steve Cramm

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

An update

School is over for the summer and I am comforted by the fact that 2009/2010 was both a meaningful and growth filled year in my teaching career. Kudos to my colleagues and students for setting such a high standard.

I have been reading a bit as of late (when am I ever not?) and would recommend to all those who share a spiritual yearning, as I do, to read David Aaron's Secret Life of God. Aaron's follows a rational approach that builds constructively while speaking to the soul. I intend to read one or two more of his books as his approach to the Kabbalah is the most honest I have seen in a long time.

The World Cup has had its shares of emotional highs and lows. I was disappointed (although I partly expected it) to see England's early exit (they were awful) but I am heartened by the success of my no.2 and 3 team's in the competition, the Netherlands and Spain. A Dutch triumph on this great stage would be fitting. Come on Oranjie!!

The ridiculous waste of money, known as the G-20 summit, was held in Toronto and more than created the expected chaos. From anarchists running wild, to poor police intelligence to the crocodile tears of leftist radicals, to a waste of tax payer money and business revenue this was definitely one for the disaster file. Memo to World leaders: Meet on a Remote Island next time you feel like a photo op.

I saw the movie 'Shutter Island' recently. Once again Leonardo DiCaprio was at his acting best and while the story had the required twists and turns it falls short at the end in rising to meet the high point of this genre, as set in " A Beautiful Mind". Nevertheless its worth seeing (spoiler alert aside).