August 08, 2002



The Palestinian Authority claims a lone policeman, acting on his own, executed an mentally retarded man, accused of rape, under Yasir Arafat's window, next door to where the Palestinian cabinet was meeting. Unfortunately that sort of contradicts the Swedish eyewitness:

What happened next is hard to describe. The "suspect," in his early twenties, was blindfolded and made to stand against a wall. Three policemen standing about three meters away sprayed him with bullets from their rifles. He was hit in the head and chest and fell to the ground. One of the policemen then walked up to him and fired one more shot into his head. "Take him away," came the order from another police officer.

I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. The executioners did not notice that I was watching. When the rest of the journalists heard the shots they rushed towards the area to see what was happening. Some thought that Israeli soldiers had stormed the compound.

Nervous policemen charged at the cameras and reporters and ordered them to leave the area.

I asked a police officer what had happened and he replied, "A criminal has been executed. what's the big deal?"

"What did he do?" I asked another police officer who was trying to block cameras with his hand. "He murdered two elderly women and raped his grandmother," he answered. "Was he ever tried?" I asked. "I don't know, but the President [Arafat] this morning approved the execution. (First seen on LGF.)

Posted by BruceR at 10:54 AM



Richard Dawkins, an Oxford science don, suggested Mr Bush was just as much of a danger to world peace as Saddam Hussein, adding: "It would be a tragedy if Tony Blair were to be brought down through playing poodle to this unelected and deeply stupid little oil-spiv."

--The Guardian (first seen on Denton)

Posted by BruceR at 09:34 AM



We've started handing out the medals. A Hydra transfixed by a sword? Kewl!

Posted by BruceR at 08:40 AM



I'm as much a skeptic as the next guy, but the news out of Australia today that there's experimental confirmation for a changing value for c over time isn't news to me. University of Toronto professor John Moffat, who in his youth worked with Bohr and corresponded with Einstein, first proposed the idea in 1991. I once interviewed Moffat, who is a hell of a nice chap, and wrote about it here, among other places. Cambridge's John Barrow is one of a number of other well-respected advocates of what some call the Moffat-Clayton theory.

Last August, Prof. John Webb of the University of New South Wales, a colleague of Barrow's, published the first solid experimental evidence in Physical Review Letters that could back up that idea. (Barrow, who had originally proposed the terms of Webb's experiment, had found anomalies in 30 quasar spectra that could indicate a changing value of c... Webb aimed the most powerful available telescope at a set of 17 quasars, and all but eliminated the possibility it was fuzziness in the data that was responsible.) Now an Australian theoretician, Paul Davies, has come on board, convinced by Webb's evidence, and the growing dilemma that has had cosmological theoreticians tied in knots for years... the annoying fact that, unless the speed of light was faster at the beginning of time, given the limits that this imposes on the rate of expansion the universe is now impossibly large. Studying black holes, Davies has all but ruled out another possibility for the observational anomalies... specifically that the constant e (electronic charge) was the one changing over time instead. The accumulated weight of data is enough that now even the esteemed journal Nature has to give it ink, which is how we got the story today. (The other possible explanation, and still the running favourite if you took a poll it should be said, involves the existence of gravitationally repulsive matter, which has never been observed.)

If I have a problem with the media coverage of the story today, it's not that they've made too much of this one, but that science reporters never seem to bother to Google anything before they go to print anymore. But at those odds, I'll take that bet, Steven.

As Einstein once wrote to Moffat: "Every individual … has to retain his way of thinking if he does not want to get lost in the maze of possibilities. However, nobody is sure of having taken the right road -- myself least of all."

POSTSCRIPT: Moffat once told me of a meeting he had with Neils Bohr in his lab in Copenhagen, who also encouraged him not to regard Einstein with inordinate awe: “Bohr, who mumbled and kept lighting and relighting a pipe with a large box of matches, was quite unhappy about Einstein's work on unified field theory and his distaste for quantum mechanics. ‘Albert is just an alchemist!’ he said.”

Posted by BruceR at 07:52 AM