Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Diwali 2016

October 29, 2016

Little Diwali in South India today and the main celebrations tomorrow.





The Age of Man is the age of fire

September 1, 2016

There is much discussion about when to define the start of the Anthropocene  epoch “that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystem” . Scientists are looking for the parameters which could define the start of this geological age in the 4.5 billion year history of the Earth. There are suggestions that it should be 1945 when the first nuclear test was carried out or 1950 when radioactive particles began to be detected in the atmosphere. Others have argued for 1610 when “an unusual drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the irreversible exchange of species between the New and Old Worlds” began. Others still argue for 1964.

Homo timeline (Wikipedia)

Homo timeline (Wikipedia)

But I find these arguments unconvincing. There is, in fact, a single development (whether it was a single event or a development, discovered and rediscovered, perhaps at many places and over a long period). That single development was the control of fire. I wrote a year or so ago “The Age of Man began when Homo Erectus learned to produce fire at will and to contain fire in a hearth.”

The one single capability which initiated the divergence of humans from all other animals and which has resulted in the inevitable development and domination of modern humans is the control of fire. And that was around 400,000 years ago. The Age of Man began when Homo Erectus learned to produce fire at will and to contain fire in a hearth. I would even speculate that without fire Homo Erectus would not have survived to evolve into Homo Sapiens. Without fire Homo Sapiens would not have thrived through the ice ages or left the tropics to colonise more northern climes.

When our ancestors came down from the trees and developed bipedalism, they did not have control of fire. There were just another primate species – one among many. The earliest stone tools were developed without fire possibly by homo habilis. It may well be that this tool making ability was a key survival attribute which allowed this species to become skillful hunters and shift to a diet containing much raw meat. The brains of homo habilis grew in size and the species continued evolving to become homo erectus and other bipedal primates died out. And then around 1.8 – 1.5 million years ago, homo erectus gained some control over fire. It is possible that it was the skill in stone cutting which itself led to the discovery that flint and iron pyrites struck together could create a spark. It may have been an ancient stone tool maker who, accidentally, first discovered a method of creating a spark and igniting a fire. While the earliest known hearths are only from around 400,000 years ago, hearths are relatively sophisticated technology. Primitive ignition techniques and a rudimentary control of fire must have been available earlier and was probably available to the common ancestors of both Neanderthals and AMH (anatomically modern humans). The size of the evolving homo erectus brain grew sharply as cooked meat dominated the diet and the biological energy resources available to an individual of the species took off. The – albeit primitive – control of light and heat from an external source would have been revolutionary. Though fire was not necessary for stone tools, the ability to make and hone stone tools, and fire-hardened wooden weapons, after the hunting day was done would have been a giant leap in the technological stakes.

There is a clear link between diet and energy availability and brain size evolution.

Smithsonian: Wherever humans have gone in the world, they have carried with them two things, language and fire. ….. Darwin himself considered these the two most significant achievements of humanity.

Harvard biologist Richard Wrangham, … believes that fire is needed to fuel the organ that makes possible all the other products of culture, language included: the human brain. Every animal on earth is constrained by its energy budget; the calories obtained from food will stretch only so far. And for most human beings, most of the time, these calories are burned …… in powering the heart, the digestive system and especially the brain, in the silent work of moving molecules around within and among its 100 billion cells. A human body at rest devotes roughly one-fifth of its energy to the brain, regardless of whether it is thinking anything useful, or even thinking at all. Thus, the unprecedented increase in brain size that hominids embarked on around 1.8 million years ago had to be paid for with added calories either taken in or diverted from some other function in the body. Many anthropologists think the key breakthrough was adding meat to the diet. But Wrangham and his Harvard colleague Rachel Carmody think that’s only a part of what was going on in evolution at the time. What matters, they say, is not just how many calories you can put into your mouth, but what happens to the food once it gets there. How much useful energy does it provide, after subtracting the calories spent in chewing, swallowing and digesting? The real breakthrough, they argue, was cooking.

……. Carmody explains that only a fraction of the calories in raw starch and protein are absorbed by the body directly via the small intestine. The remainder passes into the large bowel, where it is broken down by that organ’s ravenous population of microbes, which consume the lion’s share for themselves. Cooked food, by contrast, is mostly digested by the time it enters the colon; for the same amount of calories ingested, the body gets roughly 30 percent more energy from cooked oat, wheat or potato starch as compared to raw, and as much as 78 percent from the protein in an egg. …..

…..Fire detoxifies some foods that are poisonous when eaten raw, and it kills parasites and bacteria. Again, this comes down to the energy budget. Animals eat raw food without getting sick because their digestive and immune systems have evolved the appropriate defenses. Presumably the ancestors of Homo erectus—say, Australopithecus—did as well. But anything the body does, even on a molecular level, takes energy; by getting the same results from burning wood, human beings can put those calories to better use in their brains. Fire, by keeping people warm at night, made fur unnecessary, and without fur hominids could run farther and faster after prey without overheating. Fire brought hominids out of the trees; by frightening away nocturnal predators, it enabled Homo erectus to sleep safely on the ground, which was part of the process by which bipedalism (and perhaps mind-expanding dreaming) evolved. By bringing people together at one place and time to eat, fire laid the groundwork for pair bonding and, indeed, for human society.

I can see that once fire had been controlled and cooking developed, the sudden (relatively) advance of that species was inevitable. Both for evolution and for technology development. Within the individual it provided the elements necessary for the brain to grow. That in turn led – also inevitably – to speech (c. 200 kya) and language (c. 100 kya) and writing (c. 50 kya). Stone tools were sufficient – without fire – to lead to meat eating. But it was fire which gave cooking, which allowed an energy-rich diet containing cooked vegetable and animal proteins. But fire did not just give cooking. It provided the starting point for virtually all technology as we know it today. Fire provided safety. Hearths gave a focus for a cooperative society to develop. Hearths led to ovens and kilns and eventually to smelters. Light in the dark and heat in the bitter northern winters, probably gave rise to the first ever “leisure times”. The Stone Age, with fire, gave way to the Bronze Age. As the ability to control and contain even higher temperatures were developed, the Iron Age was born. Gods and alchemists and priests and shamans needed fire. The Sun in its avatar of fire paved the way for the first religions (though this may not be considered much of an advance). Temperature was recognised as being a critical parameter because of the control of fire. Blacksmiths and alchemists gave rise to Metallurgy and Chemistry and Physics. Sand and fire gave glass and Astronomy. The Steel Age and the Plastics Age and now the Semiconductor Age were all inevitable once fire had been controlled and harnessed. The species not only survived Ice Ages, it thrived through them. Our ancestors only expanded into the more northern climes because of the availability of fire. In due course, fire gave rise to electricity and then the dark, or the cold, or the heat, could all be banished at will.

The Age of Man has been, and is, the age of fire.

First came hominids and then came fire and the rest is history.

Homo sapiens is now with gravitation where ancient  homo erectus was with fire. As the magic of fire was understood and brought under control and harnessed, so the magic of gravitation, too, will be understood and controlled and harnessed to the service of homo superieur.



Light blogging while the Olympics are on

August 8, 2016

The 5 hours time difference to Brazil means that the event finals are held around 2 or 3 am here.

Which means that during my normal blogging hours I am fast asleep.


Hillary Clinton finally goes where Obama dreads to step

June 15, 2016

No doubt it was under some pressure from Trump, but Hillary Clinton has finally used the term “radical Islam” when referring to their terrorist acts. She has gone further and it was long overdue. She has finally entered territory that Obama is terrified of coming close to. She has connected the terrorists with their mentors and financiers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Kuwait. There is an element of hypocrisy involved here, since the Saudis have also contributed large amounts to the Clinton Foundation and her campaign. Nevertheless, it was a much needed statement from Hillary.


HILLARY CLINTONThe third area that demands attention is preventing radicalization and countering efforts by ISIS and other international terrorist networks to recruit in the United States and Europe. For starters, it is long past time for the Saudis, the Qataris and the Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations. And they should stop supporting radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism. We also have to use all our capabilities to counter jihadist propaganda online. This is something that I spend a lot of time on at the State Department.

Jordan’s official news agency, Petra News Agency, reported on Sunday citing the Saudi crown price, namely that Saudi Arabia is a major funder of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become the next president of the United States.

……. the Petra News Agency published on Sunday what it described as exclusive comments from Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which included a claim that Riyadh has provided 20 percent of the total funding to the prospective Democratic candidate’s campaign.

The connection with Saudi Arabia is something that Barack Obama is terrified to even think about – let alone mention. Instead he castigated Trump for focusing on the words “radical Islam”. But Trump had a point when he said that Obama was more angry with him (Trump) than with the shooter.

I am not sure whether it is a fear of being seen as an Islamophobe or a fear of offending Saudi Arabia which is more important to Obama. Probably they are equally important to him. But they are both fears. His 8 years in office have been dominated by his fears of taking actions. A sort of parlaysis by analysis. And Obama’s wilful denial (by omission) that “radical Islam” has to be confronted does not impress.

Whether the Orlando shooter was gay or not does not mitigate his actions. There are some gay commentators who seem more concerned about labelling the massacre a “homophobic” action – and suppressing any connection to radical Islam – just to win “brownie points” for the gay community (Owen Jones for example). But that is to miss the point. Equally trying to blame the US gun regulations is also missing the point. With the examples of Paris and Brussels, Obama knows that, but it is a convenient diversion and another excuse to avoid confronting radical Islamic terrorism.

Of course, all Muslims are not terrorists. But more terrorists are inspired by radical Islamic perversions than can be ignored. All Buddhist monks are not bigots, but many in Myanmar (and in Thailand and in Sri Lanka) are and are too many to be ignored or denied. Far too many of the “Hindu God-men” are bigots and perverts.

To confront religious extremism and fanaticism is not an attack on the religion. Obama needs, at least, to be able to distinguish that. (Of course, no organised religion whatsoever ought to exist and impose its opinions on anybody — but that is a different story).


Noted while travelling

February 15, 2016

Noted while travelling:

  1. Frankfurt Airport is a pain when making transfers. It’s time Lufthansa reacted to the LH experience being ruined by Frankfurt (logistics and the mindless rudeness of its security staff).
  2. It took 14 minutes from docking at the gate after a long haul flight to Madras (Chennai), to clear immigration, get through customs, collect baggage and get to the waiting transport. Not bad for India (or anywhere for that matter).
  3. Life is back to normal but signs of the flood damage can still be seen in Chennai – but you have to look pretty hard. What is gratifying and a small miracle is that there were no outbreaks of any diseases after the floods receded. Public health officials can take a bow.
  4. I don’t much like writing on my IPad and still prefer my pc and my large keyboard and my mouse. The tablet is fine for reading – even long texts – but I cannot write more than a few lines. And diagrams and links are beyond my thick fingers. So blogging will remain thin while I’m in transit.

It’s Happy New Year (again)

February 7, 2016

red fire monkey

A short break during a miserable summer

July 24, 2015

It has been cold and wet this July.

On a short break but without any great expectations of much warm weather, but with high hopes of meeting warm friends. Unlikely for any day to have a temperature above 19ºC.

Warm clothing, no shorts.


Fatwas and papal encyclicals are all bull

June 14, 2015

I am distressed by the fact that so many humans give so much credence (or any credence at all) to priests. All “priests” are in the business of imposing their beliefs onto others. What is not knowledge is ignorance. And beliefs only exist in the space outside knowledge. Imposing beliefs on others is just the imposition of ignorance. Each individual should at least be allowed his own ignorance. The “good” priests at least confine themselves to imposing their beliefs onto those who choose to suspend their intelligence and agree to be subjugated. The “bad” priests are those who seek to impose their beliefs on all and using force if necessary.

Science is the process by which ignorance becomes knowledge. And beliefs are, of course, required only when there is no knowledge – in the Space of Ignorance.

What is not knowledge is ignorance. Religions only exist in the Space of Ignorance

I find the idea that a few people and their spokesmen, whether some Mufti or the Pope, are taken seriously when they tell others what to believe, quite repugnant. In fact I find the idea that any  “priest” who – by definition – operates in the Space of Ignorance – and tells others what particular bit of ignorance they are to follow, effectively denies and degrades the sentience of the “follower”.

And while I have no objection to anybody wishing to subordinate his own capacity for thought and to unthinkingly “follow” some other person’s belief within the Space of Ignorance, it does not increase my respect for that person. Encyclicals, bulls and fatwas are merely opinions. They are all about beliefs in the Space of Ignorance. They are required only for matters of belief and are not required for matters which lie in the area of knowledge. Papal encyclicals are of a somewhat lower status than a papal bull.

Slate: Encyclicals are authoritative, not to be criticized or rejected lightly by members of the church, but they are not infallible. Only three doctrines developed in the past 200 years are considered infallible, and all were issued as bulls: the Immaculate Conception (that Mary was born without original sin), the Assumption (that Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven), and the definition of papal infallibility issued by the First Vatican Council.

There is a distressing and contemptuous suspension of reason when a papal bull – regarded as infallible – has to be issued that the Pope is infallible. ” I am infallible because I am”.

But there is no difference between a papal encyclical which is a form of pastoral letter – sent by the Pope as a shepherd to inform all the unthinking sheep of his congregation what they are to believe, and the fatwa issued by some idiot Imam as a command to all those who choose to suspend their own intelligence. (A fatwa is actually a religious legal opinion and can only be pronounced by one who is a Mufti. All Imams are considered learned enough to be Muftis). Of course a papal bull would be a command to the faithful but would only have excommunication (nowadays) as the sanction for non-compliance. Non-compliance with a papal bull could be heresy and once upon a time demanded torture and death. A fatwa on the other hand is stuck in some distant past and may still require death for non-compliance.

In areas of ignorance where religious beliefs do not impinge, the process of science is not in conflict. But it took until 1835 for the Catholic Church to permit books on the heliocentric nature of the solar system:

The Catholic Church’s 1758 Index of Prohibited Books omitted the general prohibition of works defending heliocentrism, but retained the specific prohibitions of the original uncensored versions of De revolutionibus and Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Those prohibitions were finally dropped from the 1835 Index.

Many fatwas and encyclicals are opportunistic and often stupid. A fatwa from Saudi Arabia as recently as 2000 declared that the sun revolved around the earth. In 2005 an Indian mufti issued a fatwa against the tennis player Sania Mirza and her tight tops. Also in 2005 another Indian mufti declared that a 28 year old woman raped by her father-in-law was now in the position of mother to her husband and had to leave him. A fatwa from an idiot mufti in Malaysia banned “tomboys”. Children are still prevented from vaccinations against polio because of a fatwa.

Encyclicals from the Pope are more sophisticated than fatwas issued by a multitude of silly muftis, but just as opportunistic and equally inane. In 1864 a papal encyclical (Quanta Cura) condemned freedom of individual conscience or that the will of the public could override any law, human or divine, among many other idiocies. In 1937 a self-serving encyclical written in German (Mit brennender Sorge) was issued to protect Catholics in Germany and which denounced the theories of “race and blood”, but did not name the Nazis or Hitler. Just 5 days later another encyclical (Divini Redemptoris) denouncing communism and bolshevism and designed to mollify the Nazis was also issued. In 1968, another encyclical (Humanae Vitae) condemned contraception. In 1991 the encyclical Centesimus Annus praised labour unions and insisted that the end of the Cold War did not mean that Capitalism was the only model of economic organisation. In the last 100 years all the encyclicals issued have been about opportunism and political appeasement.

A papal encyclical has been expected for some time – any day now – on Climate Change. This would continue the recent tradition of populist political correctness. But it probably will not say very much about the sexual abuse of children by its priests. But addressing  climate change itself is some confirmation that, for the Catholic Church, hypothesised global warming (renamed to be the almost meaningless term “climate change”) lies in the Space of Ignorance and is not knowledge.  It is expected that the Pope will call on all good Catholics to stop using fossil fuels and stop eating meat or at least to get their cows to reduce their flatulence. But knowledge needs no papal encyclicals – only beliefs do.

Global warming belief is – as with all religions – placed in the Space of Ignorance. There is no “science” involved in “climate science”, when there is no testable hypothesis. No “climate policy” anywhere in the world has any climate parameter as a measurable goal. (The talk about a global warming of 2C is based on a parameter that is calculated not measured – and the calculations themselves are suspect). That the Catholic Church and this Pope espouse global warming orthodoxy is only “proof” that global warming is nothing more than a belief in the Space of Ignorance. It is Religious Alarmism of the worst kind. That the Catholic Church supports this belief could – hopefully – be its kiss of death.

But the bottom line is that encyclicals and fatwas are only needed in the Space of Ignorance and are all bull.

Swedish media pretend that Women’s World Cup starting tomorrow is the real thing

June 5, 2015

There is a certain cowardice when “fashionable feminism” ignores common sense. It is just a little sad when being “fashionable” or “politically correct” leads to the non-exercise of the intellect (which is just my euphemism for stupidity). I have a great deal of respect for those who champion the equality of behaviour and fight for ways and means to foster that. But I have little respect for the “fashionable feminists” who cannot see that the term “gender equality” is, and should be, all about behaviour and not about genetics.

The “politically correct”, “fashionably feministic”, view in Sweden is that the tournament starting tomorrow in Canada is the Football World Cup and should be called that. But of course it isn’t. It is the Women’s World Cup 2015 and nothing else. The Football World Cup is something quite different and living in a fantasy world does not alter reality. Fortunately, FIFA didn’t agree. Of course being FIFA, if there was enough money offered, they might well have changed their minds. But even if they had, they would have been wrong. The Women’s Football World Cup is not the Football World Cup but there are those in the Swedish media (here and here for example) who do not exercise their minds very greatly in their eager quest to be fashionably feministic.

Just calling it the Football World Cup will not make it so. The men’s final at Wimbledon is something quite different to the women’s final. When we speak of the Wimbledon Final, without any qualifying gender, we mean, and we understand it to mean, the Men’s Final. The Women’s Football World Cup is just that – the football world cup for women. It is not, in fact, the real thing.

If the fashionable feminists mean that the women’s tournament should not be differentiated from the men’s tournament, then there should only be one tournament. As long as there are two different tournaments then some qualifying adjective is necessary. The primary differentiating parameter for the two tournaments is actually gender. If the fashionable feminists had exercised their minds they may have realised they had a case for insisting that FIFA use the word “Men’s” to qualify the real World Cup. But demanding that the women’s tournament be allowed to drop the qualifying gender is just stupid.

The “fashionable feminists” don’t seem to realise that “gender equality” is actually about equality of behaviour and is not about genetics. And those who believe that “gender equality” is not about behaviour but is about denying gender difference, are not exercising their minds or exhibiting much intelligence. Legislating for gender equality – rather than for equality of behaviour – can not remove gender difference and does not change behaviour.

The simple fact is that the gender characteristics of humans exhibit a binodal continuum. Gender is not therefore strictly dimorphic but the two nodes are very clear and they dominate in the distribution of gender characteristics among humans.

Denying the difference does not make it go away. For real “gender equality” everybody would have to lie in the transgender region.

TV 4 (which is planning to cover the tournament with a lot of women’s commercials interspersed with some women’s football) and the newspaper Aftonbladet (red/green in politics and very fashionably feministic) are outraged.

Aftonbladet: TV4 planned to refer to this summer’s World  Championships in Canada as the “FIFA World Cup”.
But Fifa has stopped the channel from doing so.
According to TV4 host Patrick Ekwall, FIFA has ordered that the tournament must be called “the FIFA Women’s World Cup” in the channel’s broadcasts.

As I have noted before:

A politically correct young lady from Sweden,

Insisted on being referred to as a “hen”,

She objected strenuously to “she”,

and quite violently to “he”,

Which caused consternation among her young men.



June 4, 2015


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