10 February 2007

Sarkozy Interview

Nice hour long interview of Sarkozy by Charlie Rose.

A lot of Americans will find some surprises here.

Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day!

Frank A.

Frank A. ,

If you are reading my blog I thought you would be interested in this review of Johnson's The Intellectuals.


Space Travel

Any spacecraft with sufficient alacrity to journey to the stars will have to have to travel some large fraction of the speed of light. That would mean of course that a round trip would likely leave most or all of the astronauts youthful while their relatives or friends on Earth would have aged and died by the time of their return. Indeed, significant geopolitical or environmental changes might have occurred since their departure, leaving the Earth a far different place from what the astronauts left. It is an idea that fascinates me and creeps me out at the same time.

09 February 2007

Non-Canonical Gospels

Whatever one thinks about the non-canonical gospels, it seems clear (to me at least) that they weren't written by the individuals that are claimed to be their authors (since the works were written in the second and third centuries CE). I believe it has also been demonstrated that Christians in the second and third centuries were actually creating out whole cloth stories about Christ (IMHO, this isn't an issue of dishonesty necessarily - that is, people had a different worldview at the time and they probably interpreted dreams and such in ways that would seem odd to us today). In light of this, why shouldn't we assume similar things were going on regarding the canonical gospels?

08 February 2007

Reconstruction & Railroads

One of the primary complaints by "redeemers" in the Reconstruction South concerned the use of state aid for rail lines. After all, the aid was heavy and put states into a great deal of debt. Debt which mightily burdened states during economic downturns. However, I've discovered that Reconstruction era southern governments were merely engaged in policies that were in many ways simply a continuation of antebellum practices. See James W. Ely, jr. Railroads and American Law, pgs. 31-32, 66-69.

07 February 2007

The Merchant Of Venice

I've finally gotten around to seeing the recent film adaptation of Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice (if I recall correctly when it was first produced it was titled The Jew Of Venice - echoing, at least in its title, Marlowe's equally controversial play The Jew Of Malta).

While I didn't go through the film line by line to compare it to the original work that it is based on, it is apparent (based on my memory at least) that some of the dialogue from the original has been left out. That's not surprising. One of the things that I think bores audiences when it comes to Shakespeare is the long speeches.

I thought that it was a good production, but I remain a fan of the stage when it comes to Shakespeare. In particular Pacino was a "great" Shylock, a character which has moved me since my first "meeting" with him. Anyway, I am not expert on acting or film production, so any comments I would make on those topics would likely be at the very least ignorant.

I can say something about the play itself, particularly of its most important figure. Obviously there has been an "eternal" debate over the nature of the play - that is whether it is anti-semitic or if it is mocking anti-semitism. It is a tough nut to crack obviously, but I myself have never been able to accept the latter argument (at least in its "pure" form). That is, the mere fact that Shakespeare would create such a character as Shylock and make him a Jew says something to me about Shakespeare even if his overall purpose was to mock anti-semitism. Of course one could equally ask whether in Macbeth if Shakespeare is commenting on the Scottish national character or whether he is merely writing a piece of royalist agitprop. Whatever the case the play - and in particular the pollyannish aspirations and fate of the twin lovers as compared to Shylock - has always stuck in my craw and probably always will.


Nice article on wootz steel.

From the abstract:

"Wootz deserves a place in the annals of western science due to the stimulus provided by the study of this material in the 18th and 19th centuries to modern metallurgical advances, not only in the metallurgy of iron and steel, but also to the development of physical metallurgy in general and metallography in particular."

Heinrich Harrer, RIP

Heinrich Harrer died on January 7, 2006. I am obviously a bit late in noticing this.

If you ever get a chance to read Seven Years In Tibet do so. Fantastic book.

05 February 2007


I've been doing quite a bit of research regarding non-canonical sacred Christian texts and one of the lessons of that research (which one seemingly has to learn over and over again) is that the losers do not (generally) write history. Which is why the study of the losers is so important.


It is not in vain that the farmer remembers and repeats the few Latin words which he has heard. Men sometimes speak as if the study of the classics would at length make way for more modern and practical studies; but the adventurous student will always study classics, in whatever language they may be written and however ancient they may be. For what are the classics but the noblest recorded thoughts of man? They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave. We might as well omit to study Nature because she is old. - H.D. Thoreau, Walden

New Constellations

As Europeans made their way in the Southern Hemisphere during the late Renaissance and the Enlightenment apparently they created constellations rather haphazardly as they discovered* new star patterns beyond what had been the European horizon. Also, apparently during the period religious minded folks tried to rename all the constellations in the sky based on Biblical characters, etc. These didn't really last.**

The ~85 extant accepted constellations we have today are a result of a 19th century effort to come up with a uniform system of constellations.

*It really isn't a discovery of course.

**If they had, then these powerful aids to navigation would have also been significant devices for prostelyzation.

04 February 2007

Blasphemy Challenge

Want to blaspheme the holy spirit? Go here!

Bergmann's Rule

The rule states that body mass tends to increase as temperature decreases (this is observable within species). There are obvious exceptions of course. I tried to find an article on the subject but none of those which I found are available without subscription.