Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Next comes the cultural revolution

A friend pointed me towards a recent news item I wasn't aware of. Basically, the (temporarily) ruling military council in Egypt has arrested several women in Tahrir Square and rumors have been circulating that these women have been forcefully subjected to "virginity tests". Today officials in the ruling council have not only admitted that these women went through such "tests" but defended the practice as well!

For years I have always agreed and argued for the theory that humans do not progress through education alone but through entire environmental change. My family in particular, who mainly follow the mainstream politics of Muslim so-called "scholars" have always either argued against the idea or shied away from even discussing the issue. They espoused the idea held by alot of Muslims that to cultivate a progressive human society we need to start from the bottom up, ie, we need to better ourselves and gradually once we reach a highly cultured level within the majority of the population, our leaders and politicians will be reformed automatically.

Yes it's utter bullshit, but what can you do when you have televangelist half-wits in a beard under some dictator's pay, yapping on this nonsense constantly to keep the people from rising up against tyranny?

But due to excessive financial and social pressures, the people in the Arab world can no longer take oppression and have went out with their intrinsic instincts and emotions and rebelled against the tyrants while the "scholars" sat back and watched the show. Some, when it became clear that the protestors will eventually overthrow the regime, have joined the people in protest and pretended to be espousing this all along. Others remained loyal to the despots (him, him and him).

The issue with the "virginity tests" really should come as no surprise as the mentality of the Mubarak era cannot be erased overnight. Even if we overthrow his regime and begin implementing a new more progressive one, we still need time to culture ourselves and enforce the new ideas that such actions are not only unacceptable, but reprehensible and should be actively stopped - not defended! When that happens, then even if a party to a group suggests something as disgusting as this, someone from within the group will insure that this is stopped, reported and fought. Because the people will be cultured by their enforced environment  that such a thing is inhuman. And it will be unimaginable that the ruling party will defend such a practice openly!

The point of this post I suppose, is the question; what is the next step? In the argument of nature vs nurture, I am firm believer in the stronger position nurturing has over the nature of a being. The next step, I think, is to ask ourselves what kind of environment do we want our people to be nurtured in. We then have to apply a governing body to provide, protect and propagate this particular environment so as to finally create the progressive human society we all aim to achieve.

Monday, 30 May 2011

A major step towards renewable energy

The German government has recently decided to abandon nuclear power which currently provides a quarter of its energy needs completely by 2022 and become fully dependent on renewable energy. Although they might keep one plant on stand-by incase renewable energy might not be sufficient for winter months.

The Financial Times further reports that this move "will come as a blow to Germany’s “big four” nuclear power companies, RWE, Eon, Vattenfall and EnBW." Personally I don't know much about these nuclear companies but I am aware that Eon does invest alot into renewable energy alternatives. As typical in a Capitalist market, innovation and development is only done in great strides when it becomes profitable. Now that nuclear power (at least in Germany) is in its dying days, I'm sure alot of other energy companies will be investing heavily on cleaner and renewable sources.

Germany is the largest economy in Europe and one of the strongest in the world. I would hazard a guess and say that this decision by the German government will be infectious throughout Europe and other EU countries will soon follow suite although reading this article might give a different opinion as it suggests that France has a greater dependence on nuclear energy than Germany.

Still, I do hope in the very least a serious plans to gradually reduce dependence on non-renewable sources will be implemented and a time-line put in place in other countries for the complete adoption of renewable energy is primary sources.  I would also say that the strongest economy in Europe abandoning nuclear energy and forcing the market to invest in renewable energy will push companies towards new innovations that make renewable energy more efficient and alot cheaper to build and run.  If this happens, it could be this scientific breakthrough, triggered by the German market, which will make renewable energy more appealing to different countries of the world.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Electrons are surprisingly round

The experiment, which spanned more than a decade, suggests that the electron differs from being perfectly round by less than 0.000000000000000000000000001 cm. This means that if the electron was magnified to the size of the solar system, it would still appear spherical to within the width of a human hair.

The physicists from Imperial's Centre for Cold Matter studied the electrons inside molecules called Ytterbium Fluoride. Using a very precise laser, they made careful measurements of the motion of these electrons. If the electrons were not perfectly round then, like an unbalanced spinning-top, their motion would exhibit a distinctive wobble, distorting the overall shape of the molecule. The researchers saw no sign of such a wobble.

According to the article, the purpose of this recent research is to understand anti-matter which was theorized by scientists to have been created in the same quantity as normal matter after the Big Bang but for some reason is only found in very tiny traces. If the electrons were found to be not as round as expected then scientists hoped that that would explain the lack of anti-matter in the visible solar system.

In another article (posted in 2008) that gives a better background on the relationship between electrons and anti-matter, it explains that "electrons encountering positrons (their antimatter equivalent) annihilate each other, with their mass converted into high energy gamma rays." Furthermore, the largest collection of anti-matter is a cloud near the galactic center.

Now what I'm not understanding is; in a universe made up primarily of matter, how can even the smallest cloud of anti-matter exist? Surely it's gradually being destroyed by border contact with the surrounding matter which exists in greater number? Unless there is a vacuum border between the two that stops contact? And if it existed in equal quantities after the Big Bang (as being theorized), why are the resultant quantities today of the two matters so different?

Monday, 23 May 2011

What drives suicide bombers?

Ariel Merari, a psychologist who fought in the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and has spent the past three decades studying the attitudes of terrorists. Some of his most notable work is on Palestinian suicide bombers. He has spoken to friends and families of suicide bombers, and even to would-be attackers who failed to detonate their explosive belts before being captured.

His first conclusion is that Palestinian suicide bombers are usually not suicidal. They aren't depressed, or otherwise mentally ill, nor do they tend to be drug or alcohol abusers. What's more, these supposed Islamic warriors aren't especially religious. By and large, they didn't suggest religion as their primary motivation, nor was there much hope of a glorious afterlife.

Read full article from the Guardian here.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Depending on Western powers for support?

I have no doubt in mind that things would have played out very differently in Libya without intervention from NATO forces. I do remember my anxiousness when Gaddaffi's troops and mercenaries were closing in on Benghazi as NATO and the UN were discussing the legality of intervention and the kind of intervention required. It felt like they were only teasing the Arabs as they waited for the last opportune moment to strike at Gaddaffi and save the Libyan rebellion. But that doesn't change the fact that they did.

And again it is also true that if it wasn't for alot of the previous interferences, alliances and support from the Western powers throughout modern history alot of the current (and past) tyrants wont be haunting the Arab world, but they are.

And at a crucial moment in Arab history, the Western powers give what can be viewed as a mixed message. While president Obama of the US gave just a few days ago what appears to be a very supportive message to the Arab people in a speech at the State Department, David Cameron (the US prime minister) welcomes a tyrants who crushed protesters calling for democracy in Bahrain.  Sure we cannot take the whole 'West' into one basket and say they should all have the same foreign policy, but at the same time there is a common degree of agreement amongst the major Western powers on what direction to take in whichever item in question. The UK outwardly does claim to support Arab democratic movements as William Hague (the foreign secretary of the UK) a few days ago called on the international community to support the democratic movements in the Middle East.

So what is going on?

Well, I would say there is no mixed message really. The Western powers have based their internal and external policies on a capitalist ideology. Their market capitalism has one policy and one policy only that we can be sure will be consistent; they'll support whatever they see as more profitable. Again, returning to the UK for an example (uncharacteristically they seem to be very bad at keeping blatant Capitalism under the table), Cameron on February this year (very soon after Mubarak was overthrown) made a visit to Egypt under the banner of "promoting Arab democracy". But he didn't go alone, he went with a bunch of arms dealers tagging along! So looking at Bahrain, we can see why Western powers will not be attacking the tyrannical monarchs of that country.

(a) Because of Saudi Arabia's support to the al-Khalifa royal family (and Saudi Arabia is THE biggest Western allie in the Middle East - I would even say closer to the West than Israel).

(b) Because the Bahraini royals are themselves very close allies to the West. Yes, so was Mubarak - and this is why we didn't hear a peep out of the West against Mubarak until after he stepped down and/or it was clear he will be stepping down.

(c) The protesters are mainly (but not exclusively) from the Shia community of Bahrain - which is natural as the majority of Bahrain's population is Shia Muslims. I do not really know the politics of the protesters and I do not want to make baseless assumptions, but there might be a degree of fear from the West that Iran might expand its influence if Bahrain gets ruled by Shia Muslims. Again, I do not know what the politics of the Bahrain protesters are, but I would assume this is something Western powers are calculating on.  One thing I think is for sure, a Bahrain ruled by a Shia Muslim will not be on as good terms with Saudi Arabia as the al-Khalifa family (not because of them being Shia, but because of Saudi Arabia being Saudi Arabia).  Whether that would mean they would jump into an Iranian bed is a different question which I don't know enough to answer.

So in conclusion, it really comes down to profit. The Western powers will not support anyone for any ideological or moral reasons. If economic or political power can be profited from in supporting one cause over another, then they will follow that cause no matter what morals, ethics or their own ideological pursuit of democracy calls for.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Chickens and Eggs

Today I've learned a new thing about eggs and their colours that I'd like to share here. Obviously we're all familiar with the brown and white eggs in the supermarkets. My parents once told me that the brown eggs are from free range chicken while the white eggs are from chicken fed and raised in cages.

There is an element of truth in that, but the idea behind it is false. It is true that caged hens and mass egg producing industries generally ship the white colour eggs, but that has nothing to do with feeding and environment, but with the type of chicken being used. There isn't only one single type of chickens but a variety of sub-species. The ones producing the white eggs are known as Leghorn and they require less feed to produce eggs (thus more economical, thus more favored by commercial producers). The brown eggs (from Barred Rocks hens) require more feeding and the hens don't produce as many eggs as the Leghorn thus are usually available in less commercialized stores or viewed as the organic or free range alternative.

Now comes the surprise - there are yet more variety of hens that produce even more colours! Greenish-blue eggs and chocolate brown eggs. The Araucanas hens produce a very lovely greenish eggs and if you cross breed you would get an even larger range of naturally colour eggs!

I have no idea if there is any difference in taste, but it really makes me want to have my own farm one day and raise all the different kind of hens there are!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Al-Jazeera TV network draws criticism, praise for coverage of Arab revolutions

The Washington Post has an article about al Jazeera's news coverage of the Arab Spring. According to the article, al Jazeera didn't give enough coverage to the news in Bahrain when the Saudi army marched in to help quell the protests.

Read the full article here.

Well just a quick point I would like to make in this relation; I obviously support completely clear and transparent journalism with absolutely no bounds or limitations. But for god's sake cut al-Jazeera a little slack! Yes there is a degree of bias, but I doubt it's intentional or part of any agenda within the channel's management. The Arab world is still largely under oppressive rule in a lot of places and to a large degree pressure does exist in Qatar, especially with a despotic neighbor like the Saud family. I, as any reasonable person, wished there was more aggressive reporting on the Bahrain massacres committed by both the Bahraini and the Saudi tyrants, but for obvious reasons al-Jazeera was probably not allowed.

In summary; yes there is bias and it's unfortunate, but I don't blame al-Jazeera. I think they're doing a good job for a news company based in the Middle East.

Tony Blair and the Wataniya scandal

This is an old post from a blog I follow, The Arabist. I had the post bookmarked and today as I was cleaning and tidying up my Google Reader/Gmail/Bookmarks folders in my account I stumbled upon it and thought it's worthy to post on my blog, at least for future reference.

This really makes clear the corruption and sleaziness of the "Palestinian Authority" under the pig Mahmoud Abbas.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

China is the second largest producer of green technologies in the world.

China's production of green technologies has grown by a remarkable 77 per cent a year, according to the report, which was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and which will be unveiled on Monday at an industry conference in Amsterdam.

"The Chinese have made, on the political level, a conscious decision to capture this market and to develop this market aggressively," said Donald Pols, an economist with the WWF.
Read full article from Physorg here.

It seems as the world's attention is turning towards sustainability and renewable energy, a market is gradually starting in green technology.  I guess this is all what is needed to push something in a capitalist economy.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

It's like it doesn't matter...

Author's website

Another poem on Ozymandias

by Horace Smith
In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.


 by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The Egg by Andy Weir (short story)

The Egg

By: Andy Weir

Author's website

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A space-time vortex right underneath Earth

...And every other rotating mass in space apparently.  According to a recent NASA experiment (which required building "the most perfect spheres ever made by humans"), Einstein's predictions that under all spinning objects of a large mass, space-time gets twisted (imagine a fat man in a trampoline rotating in his place) by the motion.  This constant twisting creates a space-time vortex!

For this experiment and the extreme precision it required, NASA had to invent 13 new technologies to succeed and began funding this research since 1963!

Monday, 2 May 2011