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Showing posts from October, 2015

Climbing the Kardashev scale

Astronomers using the Kepler telescope have noted something odd about star KIC 8462852. It has some very large changes in its brightness. Most likely these changes have random, natural causes, but still amongst the possibilities is the chance that these changes are in fact artificial- that there are space aliens and that they have technology that can harvest energy on a stellar scale. Cosmologists have often speculated on how we might recognise a civilisation beyond our own solar system, and they have applied different criteria to identify the level of development of any intelligence that we may encounter. These criteria were first suggested by a Russian cosmologist in the 1960s and are therefore known as the Kardashev scale. Broadly speaking Kardashev suggests that the level of development of any given civilisation would depend on the ability to harness energy. Thus Level I civilisations could control the whole energy provided by their home planet, Level II could control energy at th…

Civics and Civility

The party conference season in the UK has finally ground to a halt, and all parties have grounds for both hope and despair. Even Labour, beset by fears over their new hard-left leader seem to have found a few crumbs of comfort, and the opinion polls show that the British public are prepared to give Jeremy Corbyn the benefit of the doubt.

Personally I find this a little strange, because the behaviour and the language of Labour activists is generally quite intolerant. I hold no brief for Conservative policies, but I am absolutely prepared to believe that Conservatives are just as sincere in their beliefs as Labour supporters. That is to say that I disagree with their ideas, but I do not believe that either Labour or Conservatives are necessarily malevolent.

However if I listen to Labour not only should I disagree with most Tory policies, but I should also generally regard Tories as an evil and selfish breed.

Except they are not, or at least they are no worse than Labour in their self-servi…

Putin takes on the Sunni Arabs and the target is the oil price

The Russian President has a pattern of incredibly reckless behaviour- the attacks on Georgia, Ukraine, the threats against NATO and all of the rest of it. Yet in a coup-de-main that exceeds almost all of his recent gambles, Putin seems to be set on avoiding the consequences of his Ukrainian misadventure. However, not for the first time, both Putin and the West may be misreading each other. The conventional wisdom amongst the Putinologists is that that the entry into the Syrian imbroglio is a successful attempt to breach the wall of isolation that has been imposed against him since his invasion of Ukraine. In this school of thought, the Russian support for Assad is largely a bluff, and is essentially an attempt to widen the negotiation by catching the West once again off guard.

However, unlike in Ukraine, Russia does have some short term and attainable goals in mind.

The fact is that the intervention in the Middle East is a serious attempt to challenge the United States and Saudi grip on…