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.

More news

In New Mexico, the world’s first commercial spaceport is almost complete. While it is a bit to early to say for certain that this will be a success I have a high hopes for the economic and scientific benefits that may come from a renewed interest in space. Privately run space travel will likely lead to cheaper access to space. I also expect that private companies, once they start competing, will adapt more rapidly to new technologies and ideas.

Following up a little on my previous news post, it does appear that the globe has or at least did stop warming for the past decade. While the cause of this is hotly debated, and new computer models have been produced that can account for it I think that it is important that we’re at least aware of it.

The Obama administration is planning to withdraw more combat troops from Iraq, possibly bringing troop numbers down to about 3000. This brings the administration closer to its campaign promise of withdrawing from Iraq, though obviously it is too late to make their “within 18 months” timeline.

Ron Paul has written an article explaining his unusual position on FEMA. I think it is well worth a read, I’ll let you form your own conclusions.

China confronts India in international waters

China has “confronted an Indian navy vessel shortly after it left Vietnamese waters” in yet another clear attempt to exert power over seas that it claims but does not own under international law. China’s increased assertiveness is worrisome to some and to be expected of a rising power to others. I still see China as a country in danger of civil war. But it seems that for the moment that tensions between China and its neighbors are set to get worse.

It is true that China has been flexing it muscles, forged by a new found economic wealth. But no country in history has ever managed to hang on to a non-representative government, while allowing its economy to liberalize so much. The new middle and upper classes find they have wealth, but still no influence over their lives. Honestly, I had expected this to have started showing strains in China by now. I’ve linked to news of protests in China more than once, and it is entirely possible that things are worse than they appear, but so far China seems strong. The final blow may be the bursting of China’s own housing bubble. China has been sustaining its economy in a similar way as we did not to long ago. By fueling an even larger housing bubble than the US ever had. In the mean time China will continue flexing its economic power by doing things like trying to buy parts of Iceland.

This may not be such a bad idea. As the only western country to let its banks fail instead of foolishly trying to rescue them Iceland is currently suffering a severe downturn, but they will be the first country in the western world to recover.

Gravity, the EPA, Israel, and Turkey

While it is not, as this article might lead you to believe, the only construction of Gravity as an emergent phenomena, one of the best fleshed out reconstructions of gravity as an emergent force has been repudiated by a recent paper. This gives a boost to the current, but periodically challenged, view that gravity is in fact a force.

Barack Obama has replied to Boehner’s request for an enumeration of pending regulations that the administration is working on. This list ranges anywhere from 30 billion to 200 billion dollars in new regulatory costs depending on who is counting. It is likely to be a new flash point for partisan debate as republicans argue that these regulations are what is killing the economy, and democrats argue that some regulations save money and that if one fairly values environmental improvement and saved lives they pay for themselves.

Israel’s new Iron Dome missile defense system has proven moderately effective at thwarting the latest bombardment scoring an impressive 85% interception rate. Recent deals have failed because Israelis don’t feel they’ve gotten any peace for the land traded to date, and Palestinians don’t feel that they are being returned land quickly enough. Once Israeli’s feel they can secure their own defense regardless of Palestinian motives they may again be willing to return to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, Turkey is facing similar problems from their Kurdish independence movement. Turkey’s need for Israeli military equipment may bring the countries back together, following a significant row over the Gaza blockade.

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.

All eyes should be on Iran

The most important thing in the world this week is happening in Iran, and it seems that most of the world is going on oblivious. I brought it up with my coworkers at lunch today and none of them even seemed to realize that anything out of the ordinary was even happening. So let me say it straight.

The estimates from reporters on the ground in Tehran estimate the crowd on Monday to be between one and two million. That is an enormous number for a city of roughly 13 million people. These people are all protesting one thing. Their one chance to make a choice was taken away from them. The government of Iran is one where candidates come pre-approved with permission from the country’s ruling Clerics. In theory they are saying, these are the candidates we are happy with. You may choose between them. The old phrase, “never taunt a tiger” came to mind, as the meat of freedom was so transparently pulled away by the over confident establishment.

The cowardly US government is maybe too afraid of losing “diplomatic” ground to say it, but I will, the government of Iran is now blatantly illegitimate. It deserves neither respect nor recognition in any part of the world. A more correct foreign policy decision here, would be to play the same game with Iran as China does with Taiwan.

But I digress, I got my answer today, on an Iranian twitter there was a short request. “Help needed from world: A low-bandwidth way to access yahoo msging via browser. #iranElection” I may not myself have the knowledge to do it, but I hope one of my readers will. And, I will keep watching for more requests to spread.

It still remains to be seen whether this nascent revolution will die out or mature, but it is the first to take such advantage of the internet. Iran is a nation of bloggers(If you look at nothing else look at this). The Cyberwar waged in Iran is already breaking ground in its level of scripting and sophistication. The news and communications for this revolution are being carried over the internet, and it seems that the revolution really will not be televised. The BBC’s news and satellite channels have been jammed, and all foreign media has been ordered out of the country.

These protests are not founded on the misguided wish that Mousavi won they are founded on fact. Both the speed of the election count and the final result are preposterous.

The one gnawing worry in the back of my mind here is why was this done at all? The Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei already had undisputed power, no matter which candidate won he would have remained in charge. The political differences between the two candidates are not so great that he would risk such destabilization simply to get his choice of the two. If he really wanted Ahmadinejad he surly could have select other candidates in such a way as to split the opposition vote. Or maybe he did… but it backfired. But to me it looks like Ahmadinejad may have himself just carried out a back door coup…more on that later I suppose.

One last thing I want to show are two very interesting points in this video. The first is at about the 2 minute mark, and the second at 2:32 I wont deprive you of the freedom to come to your on conclusions.

As I went to post this I noted a request for people to set their twitter accounts to Iran and time zone to +3:30, I am registering for twitter now, and I hope you will do the same.