Monday, January 29, 2007

With the charlatan (Suzuki) go to Charlottetown?

I thought this man was taking a hiatus! David Suzuki is headed out on a PR tour to promote the environment.

The Star - Online Jan 29 2007

I wonder if he'll throw his weight behind the Conservative Party - after all, it is the Harper governments that has actually introduced environmental legislation (something the FedFibs couldn't manage in 13 year so so in power.) Likely not. As wit all on the far left, it's all about politics.

Suzuki is shrill and easily upset in debate. I remember watching his dismal performance in the 'debate' with Dr. Philippe Rushton a number of years back. Suzuki couldn't even muster a solid argument when he was in all likelihood right.

Suzuki is a geneticist - and has no academic qualifications as a climatologist. The man's a complete loon.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Star's Global Warming propaganda

In today's Toronto Star - horrific enviro-porn/propaganda:

Article on Kyoto skeptics - Jan 28th 2007

It's disingenuous to question the motives of organizations and individuals who are skeptical about global warming (or is it climate change?), while giving a free pass to the proponents.

For example, the article mentions The Union of Concerned Scientists. A balanced article would have informed the reader that the UCS is highly partisan, agenda-driven lobby group. In 2004, during the lead up to the presidential election, the UCS published an amateurish attack on the Bush admininstration's scientific policies. Easily obtainable source documents disproved the key claims. I wrote to UCS member Professor Kurt Gottfried of Cornell with the documentation. Gottfried's promised to look into the matter for this alumnus. I still await his explanation.

Kyoto proponents are quick to question scientific credentials of opponents. Yet foremost Kyoto proponent Dr. David Suzuki is not questioned. As a geneticist, Suzuki has no academic credentials for speaking on earth science and climate. The geologists who are raising questions about the science do.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Book Review - The Fabric of The Cosmos

The second book I've completed in the past month is Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos.

Brian Greene is a physicist whose specialty is "string theory" or "superstring theory". Greene's earlier work The Elegant Universe focuses on these new theories of the basic nature of matter. The Fabric of the Cosmos describes the evolution of scientific thinking about the nature of the universe itself - specifically whether space (or spacetime to be more precise) exists independently of matter and energy, or whether it is a simply a 'human abstraction' for the vacuum in which matter/energy exist.

As Greene recounts, this question - which skirts the boundary between science and philosophy - is not new. It concerned the greatest of scientists going back to Sir Isaac Newton. Of course, we don't have an absolute answer to the question. However, today's physics gives tantalizing clues. Greene's narrative stitches together the underlying accepted physics - quantum theory and general relativity - and superstring theory, a strong candidate for bridging the troubling gap between these.

I found this book excellent. Although it doesn't answer the question, it is an excellent summary of the state of the current science built around attempting to answer it. A good deal of the book discusses cosmology. I took away a better understanding of the cosmological expansion that from other works I've read.

Greene is more up-to-date in his coverage of the scientific thinking attempting to explain how the quantum mechanical wave 'collapses' when measured. An earlier work In Search of Schrodinger's Cat (John Gribbin - 1984) is an enjoyable read on this - but leaves us with the unpallatable choice between a mysteriously collapsing wave function, and the existence of a virtually infinite number of parallel universes. Greene describes a wider set of plausable theories - including decoherence.

The chapter 'Quanta in the Sky with Diamonds' is particularly compelling. In a nutshell:

- the cosmic background radiation emanating from the "Big Bang" (i.e. the beginning of the universe we observe today) is practically uniform - but with small but measurable variations.
- based on quantum theory, quantum fluctuations at the birth of the universe explain these variations almost exactly.

As Greene writes on p. 309:

"I hope you're blown away by this concordance of theory and observation,"

Yes Professor Greene, that I am.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thermopylae - Book review

I've been taking a break from writing - and instead spending more time reading. I picked up a couple of books at various shops over the last month. For what its worth, I thought I'd pena few thoughts on each.

Let's first deal with Thermopylae - The Battle That Changed the World (Paul Cartledge - The Overlook Press, 2006)

This work attempts to set the 480 BC battle at Thermoplyae between Xerxes' Persian army and Greek forces in an overall context. My overall reaction to this work is lukewarm. I'll outline what I liked and what I didn't.

What I liked:

Cartledge does a good job in structruring the book to meet his objectives. He strikes a reasonable balance between the lead-up, the battle itself, and the socio/economic/political aspects. For a reader interesting in beginning to learn something about ancient Greek history, this isn't a terrible place to start.

The book has a useful section of maps and timelines that can serve as a refrence beyond the immediate subject.

What could be better:

While Cartledge does explain the Greek's hoplite-based land forces, I really thought subject needed a greater emphasis. When I studied ancient Greek history at Cornell, my professors emphasized how important this military concept was in the ascent of the ancient Greek city states. To be sure, the Spartan hoplites were without equal. However, it was a predominately Athenian hoplite force that delivered what Cartledge calls a 'comprehensive' defeat to the Persians at Marathon.

For better or worse, the Greek's military strength was honed as a result of combat amongst the city states. This point is somewhat lost in this work.

What can be done away with:

The author includes gratuitious and pointless commentary on today's politics. This is clearly forced into the text. I'm not sure if this was the author's own idea - or requested by the publisher/editor.

The upshot:

If you want to begin to educate yourself about ancient Greek history, start with Herodotus. and then read Thucydides. If you are then so inspired, arrange to read Donald Kagan.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Will the Spanish now withdraw from the Basque region?

Now that the Basque separatists terrorist group ETA has blown up a bomb at Madrid's airport:

Second body recovered a week after Madrid airport blast

will the cowardly Spanish Socialist government now withdraw from NE Spain?