Maurizio – Omnologos

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Archive for February 2007

Brickspotting: Pastime of the Modern British Commuter

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Let me introduce you all to the wonderful world of Brickspotting, the Pastime of the Modern British Commuter

Brickspotting“, as the name implies, is the collection, cataloguing and exchange of information about those little red bricks that are aligned in the thousands next to many train lines in the United Kingdom.

Rows upon rows of them run for kilometers, at times in 30-foot walls of what was perhaps meant to be blurred red spots to glimpse through the windows of fast-running trains.

Nowadays however, thanks to the wonders of Commuting Technology there are plenty of occasions for those same trains to behave as if “fast” and “running” were foreign words unworthy of a British track.

Left in the middle of nowhere, wondering if the driver has gone completely ga-ga (as understood from the gurgled sounds coming out of the train’s PA system), hundreds of commuters have now discovered that those anonymous bricks can indeed have an individual soul.

There, one that is chipped to its left. There, another one’s got a black spot in its centre. Look, there is a brick that has been painted white and blue, part of a large graffiti!

Beginner Brickspotters start by marking the position of each Individual Brick on the wall. It takes just a minimal of patience at the start. No need to hurry: the train will dutifully stop again in the same area several times during the coming week.

Experienced Brickspotters are immediately recognised as they spend the long minutes/hours in the stopped train by drawing a detailed schema of their preferred wall.

Advanced Brickspotters are known to be equipped with maps with the location of the most peculiar Individual Bricks. They can be seen and heard at times exchanging information with other brickeratis.

With the advent of Brickspotting, collective groans are cried no more when commuters are hopelessly left at a standstill, replaced (the groans, not the commuters) by wild cheers of joy when enthusiastic Brickspotters finally see the elusive Orange Brick of Mile 117.5, conscious (the brickspotters, not the Orange Brick) of envious like-minded people imprisoned in the (rarer and rarer) fast trains.

Some very lucky people even get the opportunity of a close encounter of the n-th kind with their number one Individual Brick, as I did six years ago.

Joy and contentment will follow, for decades to come…

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/28 at 23:55:25

Posted in Humor, Trains, UK

Letter to a British Schoolboy (3 of 3)

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(three-part father-to-son explanation on the perils of being young in contemporary Britain)

Click here for Part I: Letter to a British Schoolboy: Infancy 

Click here for Part II: Letter to a British Schoolboy: The School Years

(Part III: The War Against Youth)

English authorities fight against all citizens between the ages of 10 and 18, whenever they try to do the undoable and think the unthinkable, like breaking some rule by smoking tobacco or cannabis, drinking alcohol, forgoing school and writing graffiti on anonymous train carriages.

Of course it would make no sense to encourage certain behaviors, But there is no wisdom in “zero tolerance” either. Take for example School Expulsions, with students threatened for far less than a headbutt on live TV. All one needs is to be a bit less pliable than usual, and the risk is to be literally thrown onto the street, destined to “special schools” where corralled rebels don’t normally help each other achieve the best results, neither at school nor in future life.

The abuse of a school’s right to expel pupils transforms it in a latter-day Pilate, cleaning its hands off the issue of how to educate a child. The impression really is that quite a few places are only geared to instill discipline, not knowledge or crafts in the students’ minds.

Once again, the problem is not the existence of sanctions: what is abnormal, indicating a climate of open war, is the inclusion of sanctions that effectively abandon the “guilty” student and their family to a lifetime of failure even for relatively minor offences.

The war continues outside school premises. It’s fashionable for teenagers to wear hoods on their heads: this makes them look a lot like each other, a common feature in pre-adult fashion the world over. But as soon as rumors have spread of young criminals using the hood not to be recognizable on security cameras, there they went, the whole media circus and a large part of the population labeling a “criminal” anybody wearing hoods indoors. As a result, some teens have been prevented even entering some hood-free shopping malls.

In such an exaggerated climate, isn’t it natural for a lot of young people to embrace a petty criminal lifestyle? British society in all its conformism hasn’t realized yet the charm the forbidden has for not-yet-adult people: as demonstrated by the decrease in cannabis consumption after it has been decriminalized.

The Government, instead, is wasting no time in establishing more and harsher rules against whomever breaks them: for example with the ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) allowing cold-hearted judges to force away from society no-gooders, I mean youngsters perhaps with larger problems than they cause  individui. Some towns have gone as far as declaring curfews, relegating minors in their homes (why then not forbid young men to drive until the age of 30?)

Is there any third way out of this: something else than sheepy conformism and senseless rebellion?

What can I suggest? We’re foreigners nevertheless. It’s their society and when and if they’ll want to change they better do themselves. Please try not to get too much conformism under your skin: accept the letter, not the spirit of the uniforms. And most important of all, channel your youth energies of upheaval in something worth of a future, instead than bothering a bus driver.

Let’s talk again in 2013 though…when you’ll be 11!

(the end)

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/26 at 22:46:26

Posted in Sociology, UK

Letter to a British Schoolboy (2 of 3)

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(three-part father-to-son explanation on the perils of being young in contemporary Britain)

Click here for Part I: Letter to a British Schoolboy: Infancy 

Click here for Part III: Letter to a British Schoolboy: The War Against Youth

 (Part II: The School Years)

In Italy a millennium ago, until the age of 11 your Dad had to wear at nursery and school the grembiule, a neck-to-knee vest, mostly to avoid getting soiled clothes. In English schools instead, uniforms are more and more strictly imposed as age progresses: and so, just as personalities mature, they are subtly pushed towards a physical and metaphorical conformism.

In fact, school uniforms where required are rigidly so, and the more so in private tuition. Behind them there is a huge business, and parents throw their money at jackets, shirts, fake ties etc etc, that might have been fashionable in the 1950’s.

Hundreds of identically-dressed children are then marshaled every morning to salute the Headteacher, the School Organization and the Respect for Authority. Who knows, perhaps if we hadn’t had the excesses of Benito M. it would have been the same in Italy too (What? Oh, sure. I’ll tell you about Benito M. in a decade.)

How about learning? Huger and huger crowds of children are happily certified knowledgeable and smart with every passing year: a sign of a decay in examination standards, or perhaps, says The Economist, of the mysterious coincidence between academic excellence and the commentator’s learning years.

Not that it matters a lot to Government more interested in appeasing the tabloids, incredibly popular low-brow newspapers; with a control-freakery that sees the yearly publishing of School League Tables according to children’s results.

Low-performance schools risk closure, or being sold to sponsors with large liquidity and dubious ideologies such as Creationism. Headteachers will do their utmost then to nurture an environment of learning, or alternatively, they will figure out ways to climb the Tables with tricks and a cunning usually expected in far less law-abiding places.

Families will work hard then to find schools not managed by propaganda or cunning plans. And so every year millions wait in increasing anguish to know if they have been given their dream place of learning.

A place at universities such as Oxford and Cambridge will provide more chances of a bright career, perhaps as a banker with a history degree (the topic doesn’t count much). Attending a prestigious high school will give larger chances to be selected at Oxford and Cambridge. And the child that enters the best elementary school will be more likely rewarded with a place at a prominent high school.

Your enterprising parents had then to trot inside four primary schools, a few months ago, following enthusiastic Headteachers. Then, considered also local gossip and reputation, they decided for a school for your future (not so simple: three have been chosen in order of preference; but you have been allowed into the one we preferred).

Go on then, there is no reason to worry, it’s a good institute with lots of facilities. Enjoy it while you can, because the Stories of the post-Elementary School Years tell of the War between British Society and its Youth.


Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/23 at 14:20:12

Posted in Sociology, UK

Letter to a British Schoolboy (1 of 3)

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(three-part father-to-son explanation on the perils of being young in contemporary Britain)

(Part I: Infancy)

Click here for Part II: Letter to a British Schoolboy: The School Years

Click here for Part III: Letter to a British Schoolboy: The War Against Youth

Dear Master of the House and British Schoolboy

At the ripe old age of 4 and a half years you have just started attending one of Her Majesty’s schools. Your life will slowly turn from a continuous play to a struggle with books, notebooks and computers hopefully in the company of less than three dozen boys and girls.

Let me then explain what is the background of almost all your schoolmates, what kind of experiences are waiting all of you and most of all what can we already understand from the whispers of the Ghost of School-year Futures.

As soon as born in 2001-2002, your little friends found themselves in the care of infant routine-fixated mothers. Whole libraries must be out there demonstrating that the best way to deal with a hungry newborn’s night calls is to convince it to follow a strict schedule sketched out by the Divinity, pardon, by the Parent.

Mother will believe everything is under control when days keep rolling identical one to the next and so on. Worse: the propaganda says the routine is a “must” to get a child to grow healthy, strong (and ready to answer commands).
Now, the screaming (child) bag of bones and fat that disturbs the living (parents) in their sleep is no good listener. How then can one establish the routine? The solution is simple, written no doubt by some renowned pedagogue in Germany at the end of the 1930’s (Why? Oh well…let’s wait a dozen years and I’ll explain). It is to persuasion-via-abandonment.

I am not suggesting that little babies are left in the open as a matter of course, until they stop crying and start preparing breakfast instead. Simply, the infant is only taken good care of when the routine says so. If for example it gets hungry half an hour before food time, let it cry its soul out.

If somebody said sleep time is at 6.30pm, that’s when the tiny human is parked in the cradle and left until it gets tired, perhaps because of the crying; even when the sun sets much later, in the summer.

You will wonder: but if you, Daddy, get home between 7 and 8pm, how will all those children play with their dads if they go to sleep so early? In truth, dads more often than not get home when their boys and girls are already asleep. Think though, how relaxing! It’s Adult Time, in a silent and peaceful house (That’s called sarcasm, explanations in 2010).

Dads and children will catch up during the weekend, going to the movies or a restaurant together for once. If they are let in, that is: apart from a few exceptions, restaurants do cater in England for adults only, wholly unprepared if “smaller clients” show up.

An amazed BBC reporter in Italy with his infant daughter recently described:

“we could hardly go from one street to the next in the Italian city without children running up to see the bambolotto (dolly).  Once what looked like three generations of a large family flocked out of a dark alleyway to alight around the buggy, whooping and shouting with delight.”

That tradition is not just Italian. Take a chubby, smiling child near the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and legions of Japanese girls will awe: “Sugoi!” (“Cute!”).

Nothing comparable to that in Great Britain. And this blindness and deafness to anybody below voting age doesn’t stop there. Every schoolchild is tasked to learn social conformism.

(continues to Part II: Letter to a British Schoolboy: The School Years)

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/18 at 22:57:31

Posted in Sociology, UK

The Tragedy of the Self-Righteous Christian

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I am sure 99.57% of my non-Christian readers will never believe this, but…

…to be Christian and self-righteous at the same time is a contradiction in terms…

It ought to be a paradox.

The Gospels are quite clear. Besides depicting Jesus dining with “prostitutes and publicans” without feeling any urge to lecture and condemn them, references abound on concentrating on one’s own real problems instead of anybody else’s purported issues.

“Motes and beams” come to mind from Luke 6:41-42:

41 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
42 How can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s. 

Also the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector from Luke 18:10-14 could not be clearer:

10 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.
13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.


And yet obviously the vast majority of Christians prominently appearing in pulpits and news do indeed sound a lot more self-righteous than the average person.

Take for example the whole debate about homosexuality as a sin.

As a RC myself, it is not yet clear to me if the Vatican takes that view, or restricts the “sin” to the actual sexual intercourse between consenting adults of the same gender. Officially, they say the latter is true. However, this would clearly contradict Matthew 5:27-28:

27 “You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.’
28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart


Personally I don’t think God pays any interest in the sexual mores of a person as long as there is love behind them (with consent, adulthood, etc etc).

Anyway, centuries ago actors and non-baptized children were not deemed worthy of Christian burials, and attitudes have (slowly) evolved beyond that.

So it can be expected that in two or three hundred years all the “Christian” debate about allowing homosexuals as bishops, or in a Church at all could be seen as a giant waste of time, as puzzling as early-Church discussions of the existence of a soul in a woman’s body.


Unfortunately, self-righteousness is much more than that: it is a tragedy and a scandal.

  • It is a scandal, as by shouting out (in the example above) against homosexuality, priests and Christians of all kinds of denominations are actively trying to deny other people the possibility of Salvation.

It would be like asking a person to choose: either eat or love God. I am afraid most would choose the former.

And so who knows how many people have been persuaded by their local priest or bishop… to become atheists!

  • It is also a tragedy, as the recurring appearance in history of a certain kind of rigid, unloving and definitely uncharitable attitude of self-righteousness among the Christians, leaves the nagging doubt: is there something intrinsically un-Christian in Christianity itself?

It has not to be that way. After all it is hard to hear about Christians that truly keep to Matthew 6:3-4:

3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The best Hope and strongest foundation is the work of thousands of less publicity-prone people that actually do love God and their neighbours.

ps Am I suggesting Christian Churches should stop talking about their beliefs? No, I am saying Christian Churches should concentrate on the souls they’ve been gifted with, rather than pontificate about the ones they are currently refuting to accept. The commandment to love one’s neighbour as oneself carries no conditions.

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/17 at 06:13:08

Privacy vs. Google

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Master Plan – About the power of Google” is a 3m 14sec movie not-too-subtly accusing Google Inc. to be on the path to world domination.

Apparently recorded at the University of Ulm in Germany, it is a tad too professional to be a truly grass-root production. Anyway, what about its message?

Shall we be worried, very worried about the Power of Do-No-Evil Google?

Of course there is still disconnection as a solution to one’s privacy: abandon the Internet, move to a sparsely inhabited area, live off the land and hope not to deal with any Government anymore.

This would be absurd for most people. But for us “normal” web navigators and authors there is the additional issue that anything we write or do anywhere on the Internet can potentially be used against us, or in any case in ways we would not have envisaged at the beginning.

I can only think of two practical ways to fight back on the unrelenting push to get all our data recorded somewhere by somebody, be them Google (evil or not) or a camera saving our whereabouts and movement for posterity: become very visible, or very hidden.

In the first case, it is a matter of publishing one’s content in as many places on the web as possible. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem for anybody willing to go even just a tad beyond using the Internet reading e-mails and the news.

The point is that when a search about you returns a few thousands of entries, it is be very hard to discern anything out of the “noise”.

The other “smokescreen” is to hide behind a pseudonym or set of pseudonyms to use for all online activities.

In theory this is very effective: in practice it is an armour as solid as warm butter, ready to give way at the first silly mistake, such as referring to one’s real name together with the fake one; or, as it happened some time ago, creating a private, secret club only to boast about it in the open.

Of course there is also a third way: build an online persona that has little or nothing to do with yourself. But who’s paranoid enough to conduct such a charade for months if not years?

At the end of the day, it is a matter of trying to keep as much control as possible, whatever the futility of such an endeavour.

And why not? If we have to fall anyway, it will be far more satisfactory to do it whilst fighting.

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/14 at 23:53:40

Posted in Blogging, Google, Privacy

Prozac for the Climate People

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or “The Unholy Alliance of Climatologists and Newsmedia

An additional positive-feedback mechanism in the realm of Catastrophic Climate Change may have gone un-noticed so far.

Look for example at the WMO Statement on the Status of the global Climate in 2006: “persistent extreme heat”, “heat waves”, “record temperatures”, “long-term drought”, “moderate-to-exceptional drought”, “severe drought conditions”, “heavy precipitation and flooding”, “heavy rainfall”, “historic flooding”, “deadly typhoons”, “ozone depletion”, “sea-ice decline”.

One is left shocked-and-awed by such a display of gloom. Even words such as “mild” and desert-area rainfall sounds ominous in the context of the WMO statement.

But wait: where is the list of places where conditions were OK or even good throughout the year, and so went un-reported?

Where is the mention for example of the end of long-term drought in most of the Sahel area, south of the Sahara desert?

In truth, that WMO statement does not report on the “Status of the global Climate”.

It reports on the “Status of everything that was unusual with the global Climate”: very useful indeed, but not to understand the overall picture.

It’s newspapers and magazines that need that kind of stuff. They know they don’t sell on good news. They live off a steady stream of bad news to get as many readers as possible.

And who can be better at providing that than present-day Climatologists?

Yet another unhealthy incentive for people to get noticed by predicting disasters.



A couple of articles on LiveScience point to similar problems in the reporting of Medical studies

A Third of Medical Studies are Wrong

[…] Ioannidis said scientists and editors should avoid “giving selective attention only to the most promising or exciting results” and should make the public more aware of the limitations of science.[…] “We all need to start thinking more critically.”


Media Omit Basic Facts in Medical Reports

[…] Journalists sometimes go to these conferences looking for the interesting nuggets and a chance to report on potential breakthroughs before the competition. But the media often omit basic facts in stories they report from professional medical conferences, a new study concludes. […] “Readers should approach the news with a healthy skepticism,” Schwartz suggested.

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/12 at 23:18:19

The Power and Relevance of the Multiverse

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How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!
(Julius Caesar – III, 1)

Here a brief list on the power, and relevance to our lives of the Multiverse, a model in which the Cosmos is composed of an enormous number of extremely diverse Parallel Universes.

From solid scientific bases, such a Model may be able to:

  • Move Science itself beyond the “Realm of the Whats” and into the “Region of the Whys
  • Explain why our Universe is so very well “tuned” for life, and especially for intelligent life to exist (Goldilocks and all that)
  • Explain why Mathematics is such a powerful tool in our scientific investigations (”The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” in the words of Nobel Prize winner E. P. Wigner)
  • Explain why against a microscopic world driven by probabilistic quantum mechanics, there is the macroscopic deterministic-like tangible reality of our day-to-day experience
  • Offer an alternative model for Time
  • Neatly expand to our whole Universe the Banality Principle, according to which we live on an anonymous planet orbiting an anonymous star in an anonymous galaxy
  • Explain the entire Cosmos very simply, and using a very limited number of words
  • Answer the age-old question of why would a benevolent God, or gods, or any Creator let bad things happen
  • Provide new insights on Free Will, on the mind-body relationship, and on the reality of our thoughts

By the way: to provide more detail, I will soon “serialize” two previous, rather long pieces:

  1. God’s Many Dices (I) – The Science of Parallel Universes
  2. God’s Many Dices (II) – The Philosophy of Parallel Universes

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/09 at 00:23:41

10 Pleas To British Traffic Police

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Dear British Traffic Police Officers and Managers

Considering what has happened outside my house on Tuesday evening:

(1) Please avoid treating motorists as cash cows;

(2) If you cannot do (1), please make mobile speed control devices quite visible;

(3) If you cannot do (2), please hang the device outside a clean, unsuspiciously-looking car;

(4) If you cannot do (3), please use a car with no blackened-out windows;

(5) If you cannot do (4), please stop your car away from a bus stop;

(6) If you cannot do (5), please move away immediately when a passenger gets off the bus;

(7) If you cannot do (6), please behave as normal in the car instead of sliding down on the seat in the vain attempt at not being seen;

(8) If you cannot do (7), please drive away or stay where you are, rather than move just a few houses down the road;

(9) And if you cannot do (8), please make it so that whoever answers the phone at the Police Station, can immediately confirm it is officers on duty that are in the car, rather than who knows what kind of nasty people.

(10) And mostly, if you really cannot do any of the points above, please make the most you can in order not to scare law-abiding citizens in their own homes

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/07 at 23:19:25

Posted in UK

Unnatural Standard Computer Video Interfaces

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It has long been common wisdom to have rectangular monitors, be them TV or for PC’s, with landscape orientation, wider than taller.

Perhaps it is a way of mimicking the movie theatre experience, where such an orientation is in order to serve amphitheatre-like seating, and to provide context to the action.

Recently, things are gone even further down the same path, with Widescreen TV sets (and laptop PC monitors) all the rage.

That may as well be a good choice if all people want to do is watch movies. Not so for Computers of any sort.

Think about it: we are trained to read on portrait-oriented books. Even text fonts and standard printer paper are taller than wider (not to mention our bodies, faces and windows apart from exceptional cases).

Most of us use computers for reading and writing messages, for blogs and comments, for developing programming code, and in most cases to surf the internet.

It would be therefore much better to re-orient the monitors sideways, making their long side vertical.

I have been using such a configuration for more than two years and there is simply no comparison regarding having a more natural experience with portrait-oriented monitors, with far less need of eye and neck movements to keep track of the content of the screen.

Portrait-viewing is rather easy to do on a PC (or Tablet PC), but unfortunately next-to-impossible to find on a laptop computer.

But lo-and-behold: Adobe Inc.’s hugely popular Acrobat Reader does allow re-orientation indeed, making reading of electronic documents almost completely equivalent to paper ones’.

Is portrait-orientation the next step towards the utopian dream called “paperless office“? We will know when manufacturers will, one day, pick up such an obvious idea.

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/06 at 13:23:36

Know the Quacks, Still Respect Them

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Three insightful (and fun!) lists of signs of a “scientific” theory being something “baloney” made up by “crackpots” or “quacks”:

  1. Trademarks of Crackpot Theories
  2. Are you a quack?”
  3. Sagan’s “Baloney’s Detection Kit

Reasonable they are, but by themselves just a recipe for conflict.

To get skepticism effectively to work in the real world, one better follow these quotes by Carl Sagan:

  • You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.
  • People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.
  • …The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us vs. Them — the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status.” 

Methinks there would be far fewer wholly un-necessary confrontations if we only could stick to the above.

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/05 at 22:30:01

Posted in Philosophy, Skepticism

Rotten (Italian) Football (and Inept Police)

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First let me place the blame squarely onto the Police for the homicide of Chief Police Inspector Raciti in Catania on Friday night, by a group of football “killer” fans.

I am not saying the police personnel on the ground had any fault. My anger is at those in charge of managing public order, from the local Police Chief up to the Italian Home Minister.

They knew well in advance where, when, how, by whom and against whom, fans of football club Catania were going to strike: and still, they let the situation degenerate, to the point that large numbers of people had no qualms in assaulting the Police

Crowd control is based on instigating fear to prevent problems, not in becoming sitting ducks for rocks and home-made bombs. 

Police people that find themselves in a situation like Friday’s are like a bank that gets robbed after having been told all the details of the robbery; or a surgeon that is surprised to find in the patient the very tumor he or she diagnosed.

For me, the lasting impression of Saturday’s incident will be of a State that cannot bring the Rule of Law within a couple hundred meters of the stadiums


Commentators keep repeating that violent fans are no true football fans. It is hard to believe them anymore, having heard the same mantra for decades.

Perhaps it is much nearer to the truth to say that “killer” fans are part-and-parcel of contemporary Italian football.

Its whole structure has in fact plenty to blame itself for having let the rot overcome any good it had had inside, becoming a “Sleaze&Aggression” ensemble that rejects violence only in words.

And so club presidents and managers lament conspiracies only to join any they are made privy of. Players busy themselves tricking the referee either by diving untouched, or by committing hard-to-see fouls without any sense of fair-play.

Referees develop embarrassing relationships with football clubs (and I don’t mean of a sexual variety).

After the football league’s previous managers had been found asleep if not worse during the Summer 2006 match-fixing scandal, the new ones proceeded to water down any punishment, not to mention claiming the miracoulous occurrence of having lowly Reggina manage to collect more guilt than multiple championship winners, powerhouses Lazio and AC Milan.

(I am not angry at “sport” journalists: more, at “normal” journalists, forever oblivious of ongoing scandals)


Is there a dark side to Football? For some reason, other sports such as Rugby Union do not attract any fan violence.

Perhaps, because they don’t inspire any.

There is indeed something very wrong in the very game of Football: ambigous rules on when and how to stop the opponent; the injustice of having a team with a single good player win over a team with a single bad player, perhaps thanks to a single penalty dubiously rewarded by an all-too-powerful referee; the exceedingly strong link to the city or village a team is named after, making the players akin to the local militia of ancient times.

It’s all part to a “temptation to violence“, like semi-transparent clothes that subliminally “inspire” whilst pretending not to.

All in all, Football (like Basketball, like Waterpolo) is inferior to Rugby Union or Volleyball, because one can bring the family to follow the latter group more or less everywhere around the world.

It’s for these reasons that I don’t believe that, were Football to be banned in Italy from tomorrow, its “killer” fans would simply move their violent instincts elsewhere. There would be lots less violent instincts.


Fact is that Football defects’ outlined above compound with other typical Italian issues: a weak sensibility for the Rule of Law, sometimes in the Government itself; a weak State when confronting the Mafias; way too many examples of people getting rich by dubious means; rampant sleaze and corruption in some kind of collective delusion where everybody else is stupid.


What shall we do then? Wait for Italian society to change inside out? Petition Platini and Blatter to change Football by outlawing all physical contact (or by allowing it freely), and by introducing instant replay for the referees?

For the time being all I’d wish is for the economical interests of all the “actors” of the Italian Football Circus to be severely dented by the latest uproar. Perhaps that’ll inspire them into doing something better about their game than throwing it to the dogs.

In the meanwhile, let’s not kid ourselves: lasting changes there will be none, at least not until clever idiots keep zooming forward at the sight of a red light.

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/04 at 23:32:59

Posted in Culture, Ethics, Football, Italy

Multiverse: the Logical Choice for Atheists and Agnostics

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What constitutes “All There Is“, i.e. the Cosmos?

For awowed Atheists or less committal Agnostics not believing in the existence of one or more Divinities, the logical choice is a Multiverse made of an enormous number of Parallel Universes

(Here introductions to the Science and the Philosophy of Parallel Universes)

The reasoning is straightforward. Let’s say the Cosmos contains a number N of Universes. N is an integer and can be:

  1. one;
  2. a “relavitely small number
  3. a “very large number” (for example, a googolplex, too big to be stored, or even Graham’s Number, too large to be written)


Now, if N were one or a relatively small number, that would be a strong indication that there is a God after all.

In fact, assuming there is no God or no way of knowing if there is one (or many):

(1) If there were only the Universe we live in (a widespread belief, nowadays) there would really be little or nothing left to justify its incredible circumstances;

We know for a fact that our Universe has all its basic constants and rules incredibly fine-tuned to allow our existence to happen; it even contains some “miracles”. (!)

By that I mean phenomena such as the “Miracle of Mathematics“, described by Nobel Prize E. P. Wigner in the 1960’s paper “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” as the peculiar occurrence where

the mathematical formulation of the physicist’s often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena

Finally, in a single Universe Atheist/Agnostic scientists would (and do!) find themselves uncomfortably close to the Theist position, as indicated by George Johnson in a book review on Scientific American in October 2006

You can be a theist, believing that behind the veil of randomness lurks an active, loving, manipulative God, or you can be a materialist, for whom everything is matter and energy interacting within space and time. Whichever metaphysical club you belong to, the science comes out the same

(2) If there were instead a relatively small number of Universes, problems would be even worse;

We would still have to ponder the extraordinary stroke of luck that allowed our Universe to exist with all of the above plus try to understand the significance of yet another fundamental cosmological number, N.

(3) The issues above disappear when we consider a very large number of Universes;

Our whole set of “incredible circumstances” become just one possibility out of many: bound to happen however unlikely its chances,  like the perfect hand at a game of cards if the deck is shuffled enough times.

There is no more case for the necessity of some “Intelligent Being(s)” putting everything together in the right ways.

That is even more so if N, the number of Universes in the Cosmos is really, really big (e.g. when it so big it cannot be stored or even written). There is no meaning then in discussions on the significance of its precise value, as the situation wouldn’t change if that were, say, a billion billion times bigger or smaller.


Everything considered then, it is only when N is enormous, i.e. in a Cosmos made of a huge number of Parallel Universes, that the Atheist/Agnostic option is viable

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/03 at 12:16:35

Interpreting the Climate Change Predictions – Free Guide

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Your Free Guide on How to Interpret Climate Change Predictions

(written with the unaware “help” of Friends of the Earth’s International Climate Campaigner, Catherine Pearce)

“This report will show with unquestionable certainty that we are to blame for the last 50 years of warming”

Translation: “All the stuff we have been whinging about so far was not based on evidence strong enough. Sorry we didn’t tell you that before. Anyway, we are trying our luck again”.

“The recorded changes in our climate, which had been predicted to start many years from now are already upon us”

Translation: “Who needs them models anyway? Whatever they predict for the future, we’ll be able to find it right here and now, no matter the blatant contradiction”.

” – and with some bleak predictions to come.”

Translation: “Train yourself by scaring little children if you want to work for us”.

“We can no longer afford to ignore growing and compelling warnings from the world’s leading experts.”

Translation: “Years and years of work have so far come to nothing as they have been completely ignored by the real world. Once again, we are trying our luck , blissfully unaware of the possibility that there is something inherently wrong with our data, our interpretation of the data, and/or our whole way of trying to bring this forward by corralling scientists, cajoling people and burying dissent”.

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/02 at 09:41:52

Climate Change Calamities’ (paper) Climax

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Jim Hansen is a renowned scientist and top NASA manager, apparently animated by reasonable objectives such as avoiding waste of resources and taking care of the natural world.

Why would he then have to resort to images of doom and gloom as in The Threat to the Planet” (The New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006)?

The article is a remorseless barrage of wanton destruction. We learn that animals are abandoning their roaming areas, migrating without a choice towards natural barriers ready to “spell doom” on their species. “For all foreseeable human generations”, the world “will be a far more desolate place”.

We should ready ourselves to ice sheets beginning to “collapse”, seas rising half a yard per decade, and “repeated [urban] retreats from transitory shorelines” translating into a “calamity for hundreds of cities […] far larger than New Orleans”.

If we don’t mend our ways, there will be a “sea level rise of eighty feet”, “global chaos” and (who would have guessed?) “fewer resources”.

As much as 60 percent, and no fewer than 20 percent of “today’s species” are going to go the way of the Dodo.

Remarkably, all available space is devoted to global warming calamities. Even if it were to happen as catastrophically as portrayed, surely we (and Dr Hansen) should be able to predict something good coming out of Climate Change, somewhere, for example, concerning areas such as northern Canada, northern Siberia and some of the present deserts?.

The disasters described by Dr Hansen are indeed so encompassing and overwhelming to fall squarely in what has been labelled “Climate Porn” by left-wing UK think-tank the IPPR (see my my article Saying No to ‘Climate Porn’?”, TCS Daily, Aug 16 2006).

The climax (pun intended) is reached when Dr Hansen writes that “if CO2 emissions are not limited […] all bets are off”.

Is the article’s very title seriously suggesting that Earth itself is under threat?

Not even the darkest forecasts can be used to make current climate change equivalent to, say, a 10-km size asteroid slamming against our planet: but I may be wrong.

I know Jim Hansen is one of many writing so dramatically about climate change. Without moving very far, similar questions could be posed to another article on The New York Review of Books, Tim Flannery’s “Endgame” (August 11, 2005).

In that case, alongside the usual “changes in sea levels, weather patterns, and the fate of many species” we are told that “continuing to burn coal […] is a threat to existence itself”.

Cue Paul and Anne Ehrlich writing about “ecological suicide in our time” (“One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future”, Island Press/Shearwater 2004).

For his part, Dr Hansen’s efforts to find ways to prevent the gloomy future so spectacularly depicted must be commended.

Anyway, he definitely loses this reader when the text verges toward close-minded paranoia.

Dr Hansen complains that in the media, “fringe ‘contrarians’ supported by the fossil fuel industry” are given “equal time” to express their skepticism (since when has Science progressed on consensus rather than real-world data?).

He then laments that fellow scientists are presenting climate change too “clinically” (before and after making plenty of citations from other catastrophists).

Finally, he states that somehow only climate change catastrophists such as Al Gore will be able to give the public “the information needed to distinguish our long-term well-being from short-term special interests” (of energy companies, above all).

One would hope for a more convincing set of arguments from a distinguished scientist, especially if Dr Hansen truly believes that the end of the world as we know it is near but we can still make a difference.

His forays into titillating catastrophism can only increase one’s skepticism, sounding as they do like the claims of some millenarian cult (a point recognised by the IPPR in the report mentioned above).

Faced with such a long list of absurdities, one is practically forced to put into question the very basis of Dr Hansen’s concerns.

Let’s ask ourselves then, are we really witnessing any significant change to the climate, caused by human activities?

Personally, I will be persuaded when and if “change” will be more meaningful and incontrovertible than melting glaciers, strong hurricanes, hot summers, cold winters (and one may add, wet water).

How about finding instead the one weather pattern changed anywhere in the world due to global warming?

Literally anything would do: recurring hurricane seasons in the South Atlantic; an alteration of prevailing regional winds in the Mediterranean; a different monsoon path; or any other stable weather pattern settling into a new status.

There is no report of any so far.

Remaining unconvinced of the upcoming perils of climate change and global warming, am I a “fringe contrarian”? Perhaps (but then I have no relationship whatsoever with the fossil fuel industry and energy companies apart than as paying customer).

But is it really too much to ask to leave catastrophism to the propagandists, and to keep a scientific debate focused on the real world?

Written by omnologos

2007/Feb/01 at 16:52:38