Gamers solve science problem, Turkey rises

I thought it was a bit silly as part of the premise for Stargate: Universe, but now it has actually happened. Using a computer game, Foldit scientists were able to take advantage of gamers’ desires to get higher scores to solve a real science problem. This is a huge step forward in combining human and machine intelligence… intelligently. While a computer can easily evaluate an existing state of a molecule they have trouble with the spacial reasoning necessary to improve one. By integrating the problem into a game scientists were able to use human’s mastery of spacial reasoning to find the best solution to a problem that had eluded super computers! Oh, and this might help us cure HIV.

As Libya’s revolution appears to stall both militarily and politically, Turkey is emerging as the new dominant middle power in the Middle East. Turkey has long had the largest economy in the region, but what appears to really be driving its growth is its unique status as a successful moderate Muslim democracy. Both Iran and Turkey have claimed to represent the people of recent “Arab Spring”, but the Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans have all expressed a desire to model their countries on Turkey. At the same time Iran, though talking big, appears isolated and struggling while its puppet Syria burns.
Tunisia has just announced its time table for drafting a new constitution and new elections. We should have a good idea whether the region is trending towards fundamentalist theocracy or liberal democracy in a year.


Giving credit where credit is due

First the news:

NASA is seriously considering the prospect of abandoning the international space station. Between the recent retirement of the space shuttle, and the recent failure of a Soyuz capsule we may be unable to resupply the space station. There are sufficient supplies to allow the current crew to remain aboard for 12 months, but the escape pods are not rated to last that long.

Chancellor Merkel may be unable to force the latest Eu-bailout through the German parliament. This may mark the end of the “rescue everyone” phase of the Euro crisis, and begin the EU dissolution process. I suspect that before this mess is resolved at least Greece will be kicked out of the Euro, others may follow.

I’ve been sitting on this for a few days, but I think it is more relevant closer to its maximum visibility, which is still a week or two out. A new supernova has been spotted in its early stages in the Pinwheel galaxy. I expect that there will be some interesting scientific discovers out of this one because of both how close it is and how early it was first spotted.

The US economy continues to hang precariously between an anemic recovery and a new recession with August showing a continued slowing of small business hiring, while the latest consumer spending report, from July, indicates a slight increase in consumer spending.

As the battle for Tripoli draws to a close. I felt it is time for a review of the war in Libya.
As some may have guessed, I was among those who did not vote for Obama in the last election, not that I voted for McCain either. It is incredibly unlikely that I will vote for him in the next election and I am not happy with everything he has done in Libya. I am not so myopic however, that I do not believe that he deserves some praise for his handling of the Libyan crisis.

In terms of how this war has been carried out I think that NATO’s approach of using air-power to support a true rebel army was laudable. An army made primarily of native civilians proved to be vastly more effective against a brutal dictator than a foreign “peacekeeping” mission. It is my sincere belief that it will leave a better impression on the Libyan people and the people of the world, and have a better chance of forming a stable government. Honestly, I used to be a “Neo-con”, I never imagined something like this would work and I think that Obama deserves credit for resisting the calls of McCain and others to put boots on the ground.

I also like that Obama was actually able to get France, England and others to actually share the heavy lifting for once. I hope that one long run result of this conflict is that future international missions are less reliant on the United States.

I wish that this were the whole story. However, Obama did one thing that disturbs me greatly in this conflict. Not only did he follow the precedent of several Republican and Democratic presidents in going to war without a declaration. But, Obama hypocritically went so far as to ignore the war powers act and went to war without consulting Congress. This is in my opinion a clear abuse of power by the executive branch. This is irresponsible and it is dangerous. The next time we elect a president who wants to push us to war, no one will have done more than Obama to clear the path for him to act unilaterally. Such a president could commit troops to a conflict without consulting the American people, or providing any justification for such a war.

Don’t hold your breath on Tripoli

Along with most of the world’s news junkies, I watched with enthusiasm and amazement as the Libyan rebels swiftly invaded fortress Tripoli. It seemed that Gaddafi’s vile regime was at an end.

Now it appears that this sudden turn of events was well orchestrated but did not signal the demise of the Libyan regime.
Lesson: Don’t appoint a man whose brother you’ve killed in charge of the army defending your capital against an insurrection. He just might order his troops to surrender.
“When the rebels reached the gates of Tripoli, the special battalion entrusted by Gadhafi with guarding the capital promptly surrendered. A senior rebel official says the battalion’s commander, whose brother had been executed by Gadhafi years ago, was secretly loyal to the rebellion.”

With little resistance to speak of, the rebels were able to walk into Tripoli, and probably caught loyalists off guard. Now they’re reorganizing and defending the parts of the city that are most loyal to Gaddafi.

As we are seeing tonight, there are still substantial forces loyal to Gaddafi within Tripoli. The BBC is currently reporting that at least some Libyan rebels are leaving the city because it is not safe to sleep there at night. Both sides have claimed to control a majority of the city, my guess is that neither side really controls the city. I suspect that the final battle will be street by street, will take days or perhaps even weeks, and will be comparable to the bloody fight for Misrata by the time this war is over.

An interesting question that is now arising, is what this means for Syria. Certainly there will be increasing talk of a military intervention in Syria. As much as I feel for the people of Syria, I think it would be best if we gave Libya at least 6 months to calm down, and see if the rebels can actually establish a better government, before we pursue another war.