Maurizio – Omnologos

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Archive for June 2007

Turkey Bashers Should Be More Honest About It

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People ideologically bent on keeping Turkey outside of the EU should be more honest about it, instead of trying to come up with yet more excuses.

President Sarkozy of France is maneuvering to prevent further openings of talks between the EU and the Ankara government, taking advantage of the impasse over Cyprus and still toying with the silly idea of a Mediterranean Union of poor States with the main aim of keeping them out of the EU.

Reader H.R. Clausen applaudes the stance on the International Herald Tribune (Letters, June 28) and goes as far as accusing Turkey of “badly lacking implementation of the Copenhagen criteria“.

But Sarkozy (and Clausen) can’t have it both ways. If Turkey were not complying with the EU minimal requirements, there would be plenty of rules already in place to halt its entry into the Union.

And therefore there would be no need to stop negotiations. Simply, these would report the current non-compliance.

If some are trying so hard to even prevent negotiations, it may actually be out of their own fear that Turkey is not really so far off in fulfilling the EU entry criteria.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/29 at 21:52:01

Posted in EU, Politics

Environmental Cleanliness Isn’t A Novel Concept

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Who could remember, 50 years ago they had the same concerns for the environment and fellow human beings as we do.

And so time and money was spent on the development of a… clean H-Bomb

William L. Lawrence, Construction of a ‘Clean’ H-Bomb Presents Formidable Problems for the Experts – June 23, 1957 – The New York Times

How comforting…perhaps after a future war, when scavenging for survival through flattened cities there will be little danger, at least of the radioactive variety.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/26 at 21:33:12

Posted in Environment, Humanity

Diary Entries Through The Ages

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Main Diary Entries according to one’s age

0-2: Milk
4-12: Games
13-18: Sports
19-30: Girls (or Boys)
30-40: Depressive after-work meetings with co-workers
40-50: School and doctor appointments
50-60: Pension advisers. More doctor appointments
60-70: Boules (or Poker). Even more doctor appointments
70-100: Friends’ funerals in-between doctor appointments
100- : Doctors’ funerals

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/22 at 11:12:55

Posted in Humor

90 Years After Killing Itself, Europe at the Crossroads

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The umpteenth EU summit is taking place in Brussels from tonight.

The issue at stake is far heavier than in past meetings of Heads of State and Government. With the expansion to include countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, the EU has to find a way to work despite its components living in different histories.

Call it “Constitution”, call it “Treaty”, call it “Donald Duck” but a new set of rules is needed for a future of prospects rather than implosion.

As I wrote yesterday, the best way to keep one’s life truly alive is to deal with the diverse times that cohabit in one’s soul: just as well for the European Union. Its old, Western core is several decades in front of the new Eastern members in matters of handling national interest in a multi-state Union.

It is not that the Poles or the Czechs are slow-witted: it is that by wrapping their national evolutions in ice under the Soviet domination, it is all too natural to them for history-heavy questions such as strategic defence and World War II considerations to be on the table right now.

Unfortunately, those are exactly the questions that cannot interest their Western counterparts. Because to them, history is at best a nuisance.

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Europe and European culture committed suicide around 1917 and perhaps didn’t stop stabbing itself for another 30 years. All the Empires that boldly entered World War I in 1914 were irreparably damaged by three years of war, and in all the participating countries only the most rabid types were not appalled by the pointless carnage.

To compound the situation, millions had joined the fight inspired by enthusiastic nationalism, almost invariably spiced up by religious references. Ominously, they had done it in Britain, in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, everywhere following similar patterns.

They literally marched on to kill one another, seemingly unaware of their extraordinary similarities. And obviously in hindsight, their war could not end, as they were able to perfectly match and outwit one another.

That’s why it was a mass suicide, of bodies and of culture. The U.S. officially joined the war on April 2, 1917. Their mere presence was enough to finally put it to a stop. Old Europe heard its bell tolling.

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Fast-forward to 1947. Hell-bent on destroying themselves, Europeans had managed to complete the Great War with the even bigger World War II. A great chunk of them were taken out of history by falling into the hands of that failed experiment called Soviet Communism.

Another large chunk, to the West, decided to forego history altogether, laying its soul finally to rest. No more violent nationalism, no desire to stomp on one another, no talk of reparation of this or that historical tort, and since they were at it, steam ahead with a Union of nation states, but down with religion and all mores of old (from “Father knows best” to “A woman’s place is in the kitchen“). Some call it “modernity“.

Sixty years later, the process is almost complete. There is no aspect of contemporary (Western) European life that has not been affected by modernity. The artistic renovation s of the 1920’s have fathered an incredible variety of movements. Religion is on the wane, especially organized religion, and it has become perfectly normal to practice homosexuality and to raise single-parent children, things considered quite deviant as recently as 30 years ago.

Frankly, it is more than absurd to imagine the great-grandchildren of those knowingly sent to die at the Somme or Caporetto, accept any Government initiative without much skepticism.

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That’s not the experience elsewhere on the Continent and beyond. For example it is almost impossible to deny the impetus given to liberation of Western European women by the request to work during both wars in stead of their war front-bound men. That’s not exactly what has happened in Communist countries (where the desire to free men and women alike somehow became synonimous of morphing citizens into State servants).

And that’s not what has happened in the Middle East either. Who knows, without World War I there would still be little or no voting rights for female citizens of…liberal democracies! (The U.S.A., of course, is a whole different topic).

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And so the new bunch of countries cannot simply join the European Union without a lot of kicking and screaming: Poland especially, a former Empire in itself from the Baltic to the Black Sea, then put together, dismembered and forcibly moved westward by its neighbours.

Will the Brussels meeting be any fruitful? Usually, if a summit like that fails, it is simply forgotten. But let’s hope it does succeed, so it will leave a mark in history.

Imagine if Germany could finally accept Poland’s requests, recognizing each other’s completely different historical paths, and convince it to actually become a leader in the Union: putting to rest at least 13 centuries of enmity.

———–

If the EU will be able to rationally accommodate so many countries with such a variety of experience, cares and worries, then it will be ready to expand even further: Turkey, the Ukraine, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia…and why not?

As a sort of grass-root United Nations, the EU could then become the first gift to Humanity by a more peaceful, re-born Europe. 

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/21 at 22:27:12

Every Day, a Christmas Carol for the Soul

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In Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is an aging man, money-tight and with a soul drier than the harshest desert, finding happiness and moral redemption only after meeting the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future.

Most of us will not receive any visit by eerie presences: still, we all risk to see our lives wither away in a hailstorm of irritability and sulking.

Fortunately, there is a way to recover youth and enthusiasm the way of Scrooge: by looking at our inner “ghosts”, the pieces torn from our inner selves one by one by Time itself.

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As the years go by, in fact, the constituents of one’s soul lose “sync” with one another. Some parts of the inner being survive as throwbacks to the past, becoming the Past Inner Ghost, “Ego Praeteritus”. Other elements live in the here-and-now, making up the Present Inner Ghost, “Ego Presens”. Others still have their basis in what is yet to come, belonging to the Future Inner Ghost, “Ego Posterus“.

For example, women and cars, fast or slow as they be, provide the best evidence that an important element of our souls does indeed live in the present. In fact, an obvious component of the Ego Presens is the sense of fashion: contemporary in the extreme and constantly a-changing, with wardrobes getting refreshed not just of worn-out items and impossible-to-find (as new) the same stuff of a few years earlier.

Female beauty itself means changing body shapes every decade or so, even if the owners of the proverbially beauty-beholding eyes don’t all die off that often

That is exactly what happens with cars. Look back at the vehicles in the market 20 or 30 years ago, and apart from true “classics”, you will see primitive, ugly boxes of metal, not the sleek lines, inviting quality, and superior engines of today’s automobiles (alas! themselves destined to turn into ugly boxes of metal… by 2027!).

Politics is itself not immune from the “spirit of the times”, the zeitgeist. Big worldwide debates appear to be coming and going, monopolizing it all for a while, then becoming either boring and outdated or boring and obvious (another definition for “being fashionable”?).

In the past century, colonialism, imperialism, protectionism, fascism, communism, democracy and universal suffrage, worries about nuclear war, civil liberties, poverty, the environment: nowadays, “global warming”.

Are we then “Citizens of the Zeitgeist”? Or “Prisoners of Our Times”, with our Ego Presens socially and commercially pressured into “freely” thinking with the consensus and “voluntarily” getting the most up-to-date gadgets?

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Not completely.

It’s an altogether different story for musical tastes. For some reason, most people get their melodic preferences cast in stone between the ages of 16 and 25. So if you’re 50 you may have to accept that your preferred music was recorded at least 25 years ago, and is unlikely ever to re-appear in the charts but for a very short time.

That’s an example of what constitutes the Ego Praeteritus, the inner Ghost of the Past. Other instances include lifelong friendships, usually forged by the end of the “teens” years, as anybody that has ever left hometown can attest; and most personal fears including fully-fledged phobias, rooted perhaps in the first 3 or 4 years of one’s life (just like family ties: are all those related, one wonders?).

And of course, we are bound to keep accumulating memories, those images and feelings condensed (and filtered) in an increasingly-heavier baggage capable of influencing all our thoughts and actions.

Worse still: parts of the Ego Praeteritus appear to become lethargic, if not dead altogether, around 16 years of age (as famously quipped by Benjamin Franklin). For instance, the ability to change and embrace innovation; the sense of academic excellence, invariably coinciding with one’s own year of graduation; morality, inevitably going down the drain since the days of one’s own youth; youths themselves, not showing any longer the respect of old to parents and adults in general.

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It’s in the Ego Futurus that one can find life instead, in the very dreams that keep us alive.

Those may be the hope of getting to see another day, or of seeing one’s children live long and prosper, or of being able to buy whatever one desires. Whatever their kind, still those are hopes, the last bits of us to die, and without which life would be absolutely pointless.

Hopes and expectations are not only rooted in the future: they belong to it. Fulfillment of one’s desires may be what we think we aspire to, but more often than not, when that happens it strikes as anticlimactic.

No need to be an Apollo astronaut back on Earth or a retiring World Leader to ask oneself that most open-ended, unsettling, and desperate of questions: “now what?”. A question that we will all have to face.

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As times goes on, and dreams come to materialize (or fail to), one’s Ego Posterus can only fade. In the meanwhile, the Ego Praeteritus grows bigger. More and more of one’s inner self gets anchored to the past, resulting in a progressive larger detachment from the “real world”, and from one’s slowly disappearing Ego Presens.

This may be the strongest sign of having an elderly mind: when the soul is left with almost no connection with the present, or the future.

Sadly, that’s a well-traveled path, with one slowly but steadily growing “grumpy”, stagnatingly aged in spirit instead of just old in body.

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How can one avoid such an end?

Perhaps some good memory erasure would help. There would be plenty of space to learn new musical tastes and how to become a different person.

A more practical way may be to become instead aware that parts of the soul do not live in the same epoch as the rest of them, or the World out there.

Accepting all internal differences on a temporal level too, we can then confront our Egos of the past, present and future, day-in, day-out, in an unrelentingly rejuvenating “time travel of the soul”.

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In fact, it’s the Christmas Ghosts that bring back grumpy extraordinaire Ebenezer Scrooge to a happier life, better connected to the world out there and at peace with what went before, what is happening now and what is yet to come.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/20 at 22:45:27

Drawback In The Sad “Dwarf Planet” Saga

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Size does matter for NASA, ESA and the likes. That’s the drawback.

This summer, 49 years after being established, NASA will launch its first major space probe dedicated to the study of main-belt asteroids Ceres and Vesta.

In the meanwhile, in 46 years of interplanetary travels there have been only a couple of Russian attempts at studying Phobos, the satellite of Mars that is likely to be a captured asteroid.

And none at all about Deimos, the other satellite of Mars, despite the fact that it is the easiest and cheapest place to reach in the Solar System from the Low Earth Orbit (such as the Space Station’s). It’s easier and cheaper than the surface of our own Moon.

Can’t anybody else see a pattern emerging? Yes there have been peculiar missions like the one to asteroid Eros, but those are by far the exception.

Let’s face it: Big Space Agencies don’t like to bother with small components of the Solar System. It is not “cool” enough to say “Well guys and gals we are going to see a space rock smaller than Rhode Island” (despite the surprises those space rocks may be hiding for us to discover).

There is a mission en-route to Pluto now. It was cancelled before lift-off at least once, and I am sure it would have never been approved had Pluto been demoted to “dwarf planet” in that silly astronomical congress a few months back.

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And all of that, just to make sure schoolchildren could keep a mnemonic of 8 planets?

There are more than 9 stars and more than 9 galaxies…

The more time passes, the more unbelievable the whole thing is. Now Eris has been discovered to be larger than Pluto.

So what?

Anyway, I think 99.99% of people will agree that there is no way to scientifically define a planet. Here’s a definition for the “Average Joe and Jane” then:

A Planet is a round-ish object that orbits around a star and does not orbit around another round-ish object” (c) Maurizio Morabito 2007.

Who can get simpler than that?

And what would be soooooooooooooo wrong with it?

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/15 at 22:51:34

Please Rescue Scientific American

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To: editors@sciam.com

Dear Editors

May I ask if anybody could please rescue Scientific American (SciAm)?

Time and again in the past year or so, I have been disappointed by what comes up in SciAm, especially compared to the though-provoking, ground-breaking stuff that regularly graces American Scientist (AS).

Here’s an example. In SciAm‘s July 2007 magazine, you published an already-outdated article “Warmer Oceans, Stronger Hurricanes“, by K.E. Trenberth.

The author barely mentions the issue of wind shear, that most if not all models indicate will increase because of Global Warming, thereby creating a huge obstacle for the formation of hurricanes.

Talk about negative feedback…

In American Scientist‘s July 2007 magazine for comparison, one can find the excitingly great science made by people that, despite being convinced there is a problem with anthropogenic global warming, still don’t have any fear to state that there may be other reasons for the glaciers of Mt Kilimanjaro to disappear.

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I hope you’ll be able to get your act together sooner rather than later, and go back to what Scientific American has been known for, for more than a century: a magazine where ordinary people can stand on the shoulder of giants, instead of being fed their stale crumbs.

Addendum

Am I saying that SciAm needs rescuing because their articles accept anthropogenic climate change? Not at all.

If that were the problem I’d be even less keen to read from American Scientist and Sigma Xi, the scientists’ organization behind it. They are into Anthropogenic Climate Change right, left and center.

The relation between the articles I mention is that the hurricane one is old and incomplete (*), whilst the Kilimanjaro piece is new and challenging.

That’s why my plea is to the Editors of SciAm, not the author of the hurricane article.

(*) check this: Vecchi, G. A., and B. J. Soden (2007), “Increased tropical Atlantic wind shear in model projections of global warming“, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L08702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028905

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I have a long-standing respect for SciAm. “All” I am asking is for it to get back to cutting-edge stuff covered in deep by major contributors challenging their readers into reconsidering long-standing beliefs.

Why was it AS rather than SciAm that published the article shattering the myth that Easter Island was destroyed by humans?

These days, the SciAm Editors are so concerned about appearing mainstream,
they can publish an article by AIDS-theory-dissident Duisberg on cancer only after plastering it up with disclaimers.

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So please Editors of SciAm: get the fluff out of the magazine, “un-button up” a little bit, stop worrying so much about Science vs. Religion, and about what is mainstream science and what is not, and Scientific American will be once again as great as ever.

I am still hopeful. Perhaps one day the richness of the SciAm website will make it into the magazine.

Written by omnologos

2007/Jun/14 at 22:15:50