Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bhutto’s Son and Husband to Lead Party

LAHORE, Pakistan — Three days after the death of Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistan People’s Party on Sunday chose her 19-year-old son, Bilawal, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, as co-leaders of the party, the biggest and most potent in Pakistan.

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Alaska Jet Meeting

Recently about the Extragalactic Jets 2007 Alaska Conference Lawrence Rudnick wrote:

"R. Protheroe deserves kudos for an extremely innovative proposal to use fossil AGN as the source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. The basic idea is that fossil jets self-organize into a stable reverse-field pinch (RFP) configuration. The slow decay of this field through reconnection induces electric fields of order 10−5 V/m, which can then accelerate seed cosmic rays to high energies. Whether or not this RFP mechanism will ultimately work, it may provide the stimulus for more creative thinking about the sources of the highest energy cosmic rays."

When workers in different fields start to quote each other, you know that something big may be coming.

Roger Blandford

Here you can find a letter this Astrophysicist wrote in Physics Today in 2005 with a thoughtful opinion on President's Bush Space Science Initiative.
He is an able and successful Physicist whose ideas deserve serious consideration.

Immigration and the Candidates

Even by the low standards of presidential campaigns, the issue of immigration has been badly served in the 2008 race. Candidates — and by this we mean the Republicans, mostly — have been striking poses and offering prescriptions that sound tough but will solve nothing. They have distorted or disowned their pasts and attacked one another ...

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bhutto: They don't blame al-Qa'ida. They blame Musharraf

Robert Fisk: They don't blame al-Qa'ida. They blame MusharrafPublished: 29 December 2007Weird, isn't it, how swiftly the narrative is laid down for us. Benazir Bhutto, the courageous leader of the Pakistan People's Party, is assassinated in Rawalpindi – attached to the very capital of Islamabad wherein ex-General Pervez Musharraf lives –

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Alan Boss

This theoretical physicist calculated the formation of planets and stars out of a cloud of gas and dust. He wrote the book, "Looking for Earths: The Race to Find New Solar Systems".

He found out that if the initial mass of the star is lowered, the region around the gas and dust cools down, but not as much as one would expect if the interactions between these three components are not taken into account.

This sounds familiar to me. James Lovelock found independently, that if one considers a few elements on the surface of the Earth, feedback loops keep the temperature like a thermostat. This he called the Gaia Effect. Earth acts like if alive.

It seems then that this "living" behavior of our environment comes to us at least since the Sun the Earth and the planets were formed out of smaller components.

Rogue Elements and Survival

There is something that confuses me. Can a small group of rogue individuals destroy us all?

My first answer is no. But then it is possible to kill over one hundred people in a few minutes. We are almost seven billion people. Will the rogues keep us all back like sheep?

I do not think so.

What I expect to happen is a lot of suffering like what we are experiencing right now in Darfur, Bangladesh, Mexico City, and many other places of suffering. Even here in Illinois. This can get worse, but somehow I do not feel that is the way we go. Some Apocalypse in 2012 or any such sort, but then again, Who knows the future? Certainly not me.

I believe that leaders as Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton, are good candidates for President of the United States, even John McCain. I reserve my comments about the other candidates.

Australian Detainee Is Released

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) -- An Australian who fought with the Taliban and later pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism was freed from prison Saturday, after completing a sentence imposed by a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay.

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"Timothy Leary's dead. No, no, no, no he's outside looking in"

The Moody Blues memorialized Timothy Leary with those words.

Now we are confronted with a dilemma, do we look out, or in?

Particle Physics is been choked to death. Recently the US Congress passed a budget that left Fermilab short of funds. Astroparticle Physics has not fared much better, but maybe both together or one of them has a better chance to improve our fundamental knowledge of the Universe we live in.

The promise of quark bombs is possibly impossible to keep, maybe the promise of finding a home for humanity can be kept.


A group of Astronomers and Astrophysicists, calling themselves The CODEX Team recently proposed an experiment to test fundamental physics. they write:

"Difficult as it may be, such an experiment is no more complex, nor more expensive, nor of less fundamental importance than what our colleagues at CERN regularly do.

Accuracies not far from what we need for detecting the cosmic signal are presently being reached in the observations of radial velocity perturbations induced by extra-solar planets (e.g. HARPS [6]). We want to do the same but with objects that are hundred thousand times fainter than the extra-solar planets targets, and on timescales of decades. An extremely large light bucket is needed and in this respect the E-ELT is going to play for European astronomers the role of LHC for particle physicists."

About the feasibility of the Experiment they write:

"A special issue is represented by the wavelength calibration, because long-term stability is a must and serious doubts have been cast over the possibility to achieve the required accuracy with conventional lamps. This is the reason why a new concept is being developed: the laser frequency comb, an optical or near-IR laser generating a train of femtosecond pulses with the pulse repetition controlled by an atomic clock, producing a reference spectrum of evenly spaced δ functions [8]"

Some of them are in Geneva where CERN is, and were the first to discover planets outside our solar system going around a normal star like our Sun. We should pay attention.

They conclude:

"Is the leap from HARPS on the ESO 3.6m telescope in La Silla to the E-ELT too daring? Maybe. This has prompted the CODEX Team to study the possibility of building a precursor, dubbed ESPRESSO (Echelle Spectrograph for PREcision Super Stable Observations) to be placed at the VLT, possibly at the incoherently combined focus of the four UTs. The instrument would look like one CODEX module and would allow the community to get a first glance of a significant part of the CODEX immediate science, of course with the exception of the cosmic dynamics. ESPRESSO would make it possible tests of the stability of the IGM that on the one hand are crucial for the CODEX feasibility and on the other hand would provide fundamental information on the formation of cosmic structures and feedback at high-redshift (see, for example [12])."

Astroparticle Physics to Particle Physics, here we come!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Five Planets Orbiting 55 Cancri

Fischer et al. recently posted an article about the existence of the first quintuple-planet system, they write:

"Thus, 55 Cnc is the first quintuple-planet system known."

The methods to discover exo-planets are improving. Maybe soon Astrobiology practitioners will find the first life signal outside Earth.

They also write:

"Thus, 55 Cnc system has some basic structural attributes found in our solar system: nearly coplanar, circular orbits, with a dominant gas giant between 5-6 AU. This similarity suggests that such solar system architectures are not extremely rare."

SETI seems more prescient with these new data.

Nevertheless as Guillermo Gonzalez, from Iowa State, writes:

"The planets are too massive to be habitable. It is an interesting system, though, given the low eccentricities of the planets' orbits."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mexico: Trade Deficit Declines

Mexico reported a smaller-than-expected trade deficit for November after oil exports rose sharply. The deficit narrowed to $760 million from $1.65 billion in October, the finance ministry said. Economists expected a gap of $1.39 billion. Mexican oil export revenue rose 69 percent last month to $4.89 billion, the ministry said. Nonoil exports grew..

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Question of Blame When Societies Fall

As I pulled out of Tucson listening to an audiobook of Jared Diamond’s “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” the first of a procession of blue-and-yellow billboards pointed the way to Arizona’s strangest roadside attraction, “The Thing?”

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Precalculus Formulas

Here you can find formulas for a Precalculus Course.

1.1 Trigonometric functions
For the trigonometric ratios for a point p on the unit circle holds:
cos(φ) = xp , sin(φ) = yp , tan(φ) = yp/xp
sin2 (x) + cos2 (x) = 1 and cos−2 (x) = 1 + tan2 (x).
cos(a ± b) = cos(a) cos(b) ∓ sin(a) sin(b) ,
sin(a ± b) = sin(a) cos(b) ± cos(a)sin(b)
tan(a ± b) =( tan(a) ± tan(b) )/( 1 ∓ tan(a) tan(b) )
The sum formulas are:
sin(p) + sin(q) = 2 sin( 1 / 2 (p + q)) cos( 1 / 2 (p − q))
sin(p) − sin(q) = 2 cos( 1 / 2 (p + q)) sin( 1 / 2 (p − q))
cos(p) + cos(q) = 2 cos( 1 / 2 (p + q)) cos( 1 / 2 (p − q))
cos(p) − cos(q) = −2 sin( 1 / 2 (p + q)) sin( 1 / 2 (p − q))
From these equations can be derived that
2 cos2 (x) = 1 + cos(2x) , 2 sin2 (x) = 1 − cos(2x)
sin(π − x) = sin(x) , cos(π − x) = − cos(x)
sin( 1 / 2 π − x) = cos(x) , cos( 1 / 2 π − x) = sin(x)
Conclusions from equalities:
sin(x) = sin(a)
⇒ x = a ± 2kπ or x = (π − a) ± 2kπ, k ∈ N
cos(x) = cos(a)
⇒ x = a ± 2kπ or x = −a ± 2kπ
tan(x) = tan(a)
⇒ x = a ± kπ and x =/= π / 2 ± kπ
The following relations exist between the inverse trigonometric functions:
arctan(x) = arcsin(x/ √x2 + 1)= arccos(1/√ x2 + 1)

sin(arccos(x)) = √ 1 − x2

David Charbonneau

Scientist of the year, David Charbonneau, according to Discover Magazine says:

"As a concluding remark, we note that our results indicate that the sunset over HD189733b is red."

You can read the article here.

A Quechua Christmas Carol

Good and Evil at the Center of the Earth:A Quechua Christmas Carol by Greg Palast December 24th, 2007

He writes:
"But maybe it’s just that simple. Maybe in this world there really is Good and Evil."
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Budget Cuts Will Mean Layoffs at Fermilab

The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the nation’s premier center for plumbing the mysteries of the universe in the tiniest bits of matter, is planning to lay off more than 10 percent of its employees in the coming months, the result of impending budget cuts mandated by the spending bill passed by Congress this week.

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Winter Solstice 2007

Happy Holidays!

Finding challenges popular theory of universe's origins

Although the findings don't rule out traditional inflation theories, they do open the door for other theories about how the universe began, including the idea that the universe began with a splat rather than a bang.

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One Scalar Field Slow-Roll Inflation

Recently Amit P. S. Yadav1 and Benjamin D. Wandelt presented their result that the simplest inflation model is not favored by data.

Working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where the first Internet browser, MOSAIC, was invented, at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). They analyzed, with huge computer power, data from the three years of observation of the WMAP, and they conclude with 99.5% certainty that the simplest model of inflation is wrong.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Life is not fair. You can read about a man that was brought illegally to the US when he was young. As a 9 year old he did not have responsibility for being here illegally. When he grew up and knew better, he lied to become a police officer. Now he is being deported to Mexico.

This is a moral puzzle.

My first reaction is that he broke the law and he has to pay. But then I try to imagine the whole situation, and remember that in 1992 the US and the Mexican governments agreed to start a new relationship, NAFTA, but left out completely the very cases we are confronted with now.

What is fair is that the citizens of both countries, Mr. Oscar Ayala-Cornejo's peers, get together and discuss his case. That will not happen, and I declare that unfair.

Milwaukee Police Officer to Be Deported

The case of Oscar Ayala-Cornejo is familiar to many illegal immigrants who grew up in the U.S. thinking of themselves as Americans only to have their status catch up with them later in life.

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Friday, December 21, 2007


Nuclear physics determines the Greisen-Zatzepin-Kuzmin (GZK) energy. Above 1019 eV a particle will loose its energy colliding with the Cosmic Microwave Background photons after traveling a few tens of megaparsecs. On the other hand Wibig et al. claim that at this same energy the magnetic field inside our galaxy and the intergalactic magnetic field will deflect particles very little if they come from within this GZK radius. Did somebody design a particle detector between Earth and the nearby galaxies?

Virgo Cluster

This system of galaxies is 54 million light years away. Why did not the Pierre Auger Observatory get a single particle from there?

Was it Carbon from Cen A?

According to Wibig et al. the highest energy cosmic rays from Centaurus A were C nuclei.

Centaurus A

Fast Facts for Centaurus A:
Scale Image is: 15 arcmin on a side.
Category: Quasars & Active Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000): RA 13h 25m 28s | Dec -43º 01' 11"
Constellation: Centaurus (Cen)
Observation Date: September 10, 1999
Observation Time: 6.4 hours
Color Code: Intensity
Instrument: HRC
Also Known As: Cen A, NGC 5128
Distance Estimate: 11 million light years
Release Date: October 25,

This information is from Chandra

Science magazine's top 10 breakthroughs of the year

Science magazine honors human genetic variation as the scientific breakthrough of the year and highlights nine runners-up from a variety of disciplines. Ars breaks down the list.

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Top Ten Discoveries of the Year (Science Magazine)

Auger is in the list:

" Origin of Cosmic Bullets: It has been known since the 1960s that the Earth is bombarded by high energy cosmic particles. These particles are smaller than atoms yet hit the Earth with the force of a golf ball landing on a fairway—that is an energy level 100 million times higher then any particle accelerator has been able to achieve to date. The question of their origin may have been solved this year by researchers at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. Their answer: these particles come from active galactic nuclei, supermassive black holes at the center of some galaxies. However, without a mechanism to explain how these particles, protons in this case, reach these incredible energies (in excess of 60 EeV), the debate rages on."

Chavez At Caribbean Oil Summit

CIENFUEGOS, Cuba (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met on Friday with a dozen leaders of Caribbean and Central American nations he is supplying with cheap oil that has bolstered his regional influence.

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Blindly Into the Bubble

By PAUL KRUGMANPublished: December 21, 2007When announcing Japan’s surrender in 1945, Emperor Hirohito famously explained his decision as follows: “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dvali's and Avogadro's Numbers

This is not the first time that we are confronted with huge numbers in physics. Many years ago Boltzmann, forced us to consider the number of atoms in a grain of salt (1023)to the dismay of Mach. Now Dvali wants us to think of 1032 to the dismay of most of us.

Is there any fractal structure here?

We are made of 1023 parts, and the parts are made of 1032 parts.

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Dvali's Bundle

Gia Dvali recently proposed am immense (1032)number of copies for the Standard Model of elementary particles. Could one take these copies as a Fiber Bundle?

If so, then the proposal will have a little more meat. What is the curvature size in this huge space? What relation does, θ for strong CP, have with the geometry of the bundle?

Curiouser and curiouser.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Strong CP Problem Solved

Today Gia Dvali and Glennys R. Farrar posted their solution on the Los Alamos electronic archive of the Srong CP problem.

This is a long standing problem in Particle Theory that makes Dvali proposal of a huge number of copies of the Standard Model more plausible.

They predict θ∼10−9. Where θ is the CP violation angle. This phenomenon was discovered by James Cronin and Val Fitch, but only for Weak interactions. The CP problem is that Strong interactions do not brake this symmetry. Dvali and Farrar now claim that also this interaction brakes the symmetry, but experimentalists will have to work harder to detect this minute effect.

At 71, Physics Professor Is a Web Star

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Walter H. G. Lewin, 71, a physics professor, has long had a cult following at M.I.T. And he has now emerged as an international Internet guru, thanks to the global classroom the institute created to spread knowledge through cyberspace.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007


The same amount of fresh water we had when we were less, is what we have now when we are more. Law of conservation of mass. As it is, water was not here after the Earth was formed, many meteorites later it was accumulated. Then the water cycle began, going up and down, salty and icy, on land in rivers and lakes, on and on, and on.

Something has to give. Either fusion or fission reactors, or new ways to make more fresh water. At the end of the day we have to come to those odious words of the sixties, "limits to growth". Maybe we are too smart for that, and we will find a way, but by listening to the presidential debates, I am not too hopeful. At least I live near the Great Lakes, maybe that will be more important in the long term.

Do active galactic nuclei convert dark matter into visible particles?

Grib et al. write:

"So it seems that protons of such energies can be
formed at AGN. What is the mechanism of creation
of protons of such high energies at AGN? From our
point of view the natural mechanism for this effect is
conversion of superheavy dark matter into visible one
near AGN."

They also write:

"For teffl≤1027s one could have the observable flow of UHECR from the decay in our Galaxy [5]. But in this case one must get a strong anisotropy in the direction to the center of the Galaxy [6]. However, Auger experiments don’t show such an anisotropy and one must suppose teffl > 1027s."

They are talking about the long lifetime of dark matter particles, and they conclude is bigger than the age of the Universe.

They conclude:

"One must mention that conversion of dark matter into UHECR is effective only for objects with large quantity of the diffusive dark matter close to the black hole. This situation can occur only for AGN and is improbable for ordinary galaxies. From (16) one can see that capture of dark matter by the black hole is proportional to the square of black hole mass, so that the flow of UHECR from black hole of star masses is negligible. We don’t have observation data for the distribution of dark matter at central regions of galaxies with AGN."

They go on to evaluate this distribution from the work of the Mexican physicist Carlos Frenk, brother of a Mexican Health Minister, to conclude.

"So our evaluation leads to reasonable quantity of the accretion of supermassive dark matter particles on the black hole. This dark matter can be considered to be a source of UHECR arising from the decay of supermassive particles on visible matter close to the horizon of the supermassive black hole.

Now let us discuss the possible physical mechanism of conversion of dark matter into visible matter at AGN. It is reasonable to think that AGN differently from other black holes are rapidly rotating supermassive black holes. Then one has the well known Penrose mechanism [12]. The incoming particle in ergosphere decays on two particles, one with negative energy goes inside the black hole while another particle with the opposite momentum and the energy larger than the incoming one goes to the outside space. The condition for the conversion of dark matter superheavy particles into quarks and leptons is great relative energy-momentum in interaction of these particles. This condition can be fulfilled for our Penrose process.

Then the particle with the energy greater than the GU scale going in opposite direction to AGN can collide with the other superheavy particle falling inside and so on. In the result macroscopic amount of dark matter can be ”burned” close to the AGN. So AGN can work as a great cosmical collider."

These authors thus conclude that we could be witnessing a series of extraordinary events, from Penrose's process to dark matter transmutation to light matter.

Heavy man!

Fed Approves Plan to Curb Risky Lending

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve on Tuesday proposed new rules intended to protect would-be home buyers from unscrupulous lenders and, in a sense, from themselves.

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Fed Shrugged as Subprime Crisis Spread

WASHINGTON — Until the boom in subprime mortgages turned into a national nightmare this summer, the few people who tried to warn federal banking officials might as well have been talking to themselves.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Laws of Nature, Source Unknown

“Gravity,” goes the slogan on posters and bumper stickers. “It isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law.”

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Cosmic Clash

Astronomers have released an image of what looks like galactic warfare. In a symphony of X-rays (purple), radio waves (blue) and starlight (red), the composite image shows a jet of energy shooting out of a galaxy and hitting its neighbor to the right before splattering into intergalactic space.

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Ricardo Arnoldo Cantoral Uriza

My brother won the Scientific Merit Award of the Mexico City Legislative Assembly. If you can read in Spanish, here it is:

El Universal

La Jornada

I am proud of him.

This is how La Jornada's note ends:

"En el caso del investigador Ricardo Cantoral, destaca su trabajo innovador en el campo de la matemática educativa, por sus contribuciones al estudio de los procesos de construcción social y difusión institucional del conocimiento matemático. Ambas propuestas fueron aprobadas con 39 votos a favor, cero en contra y cero abstenciones."

My translation:

"In the case of the researcher Ricardo Cantoral, his innovative work in the Mathematics Education field is noteworthy, due to his contributions to the study of the social construction, and institutional diffusion of Mathematical Knowledge. Both proposals were approved with 39 votes in favor, zero against, and zero abstentions."

Origin of Cosmic Rays

Recently I wrote a note "On the Origin of Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays", here I present some ideas about this topic.

An important issue is, How they get their energies? Obviously the higher the energy the more difficult is to find a physical process to explain the data.

Many years ago Enrico Fermi proposed that random kicks by electromagnetic fields accelerate them. At first it seems unlikely that random processes could achieve such high energies as are observed. What will make the next kick come just in time to increase instead of decrease the energy? As it happens there is no need of hindsight by a designer to organize the coincidence. There is self-organization in non-linear systems. Even a simple kicked harmonic oscillator in one dimension shows a level of order difficult to see in our minds before these structures start to appear in the computer monitors for simulations. As if by magic one sees pentagons on the screen, if the period of the kicks is one fifth of a period. This is called random walk. Graphing position and momentum on the same screen a web appears taking the particles to higher and higher energies in a random way.

Nowadays for the highest energy particles observed by the Pierre Auger Observatory, the preferred models are Active Galactic Nuclei in the center of nearby galaxies. The concentrated masses of several hundred million times the solar mass available in those places, and magnetic fields of a hundred thousand Gauss or more. But what if on top of those huge energy concentrations, one appeals to the self organizing properties of matter? The synchronicity of the response in the stochastic process is an emergent property, it is not designed by the previous conditions. There is an element of disorder that produces order not existing before. Order out of chaos.

We have to put everything on the plate, this seems to be a hard problem.

Small Suns

Fusion reactors on Earth have failed so far in producing more energy out than the energy that goes in. Kris Krogh mentions in his paper "A New View of the Universe", that similarly to germs fighting antibiotics, new instabilities develop as deeper magnetic wells are produced to contain them.

Imagine a situation in which the well is not magnetic, but gravitational as with the Sun. Little concentrations of mass that keep every matter particle in, due to their weight. If one can make those particles move fast enough, maybe by electromagnetic beams from Earth, without getting them out of their gravity well, maybe they could fuse, and produce more energy than we spend to energize them there. I know that the gravity force is much weaker than the electric-magnetic force, but maybe if we play with the strength of gravity it can be done. Maybe Gravity is so weak, according to Gia Dvali, because there are a huge number of copies of the particles we know. My point is that with better understanding of the forces we have, maybe we can engineer artificial stars.

I write about Dvali's idea here.

Of course this is the way stars are born, without the help of external beams to energize them though, just gravity. Maybe it is possible to make artificial stars. With so many billions of dollars used for fusion research, maybe a little bit could be directed to kill this idea. A first try of the idea is to simulate a strong gravity well with trapped electrically charged particles subjected to electromagnetic kicks.

Kris Krogh

I've known Kris since 1976. We both were physicists associated to the Physics Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

He has pursued gravity studies independently for many years now. He has a prediction for the Gravity Probe B (GP-B) experiment led by Prof. Francis Everitt. We are all awaiting the final result from this experiment next year to know whether Kris or Einstein is right. Everitt has a real bird to kill, will it be Einstein or Kris?

Kris quotes Feynman in a way that many people of my independent persuasion like:

"...a good theoretical physicist today might find it useful to have a wide range of physical viewpoints and mathematical expressions of the same theory (for example of quantum electrodynamics) available to him . . . If [everyone] follows the same current fashion in expressing and thinking about electrodynamics or field theory, then the variety of hypotheses being generated . . . is limited. Perhaps rightly so, for possibly the chance is high that the truth lies in the fashionable direction. But, on the off chance that it is in another direction -- a direction obvious from an unfashionable view of field theory -- who will find it? Only someone who has sacrificed himself by teaching himself quantum electrodynamics from a peculiar and unusual point of view, one he may have to invent for himself. "

Anxiously Expecting GP-B results in Warrenville.

New Hypothesis For Origin of Life Proposed

December 4, 2007Credit: Helen Greenwood Hansma, UCSB (Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Life may have begun in the protected spaces inside of layers of the mineral mica, in ancient oceans, according to a new hypothesis.

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What Size a Country?

Roger Cohen posted his opinion in the New York Times last night. Belgians have not had a government for several months now. Is Mexico a Country? How many of us have left? I do feel Mexican, and likely Americans do not think I am American. Are we going through a transition?

Europe is not the United States, but they may be more similar as time passes. In a personal level, I know that we feel generally better with people that looks like us and talks like us, what I am considering here is that as time passes, each one of us will get less of that experience and more of new experience. We are surrounded by the other. We better get used to that, and recognize that all human beings come from a place in Africa. We are all brothers and sisters, and the sooner we recognize that, the better.

A Surreal State

By ROGER COHENPublished: December 17, 2007BRUSSELSBelgium’s favorite Surrealist son, René Magritte, is famous for his painting of an apple on which he wrote: “This is not an apple.” He did the same for a pipe. Today he might aptly produce a rendering of his native land ...

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

What is Spin?

Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit proposed many years ago a new property of elementary particles. Maybe it is time now to revisit the proposal.

Initially they were thinking literally. They thought that if particles were moving around their own axes, they were extended objects. This was then similar to any extended object which parts can rotate with respect to the axis. The problem with this metaphor was that an estimate of the radius produced superluminal velocities, i.e. some parts would move faster than light. This difficulty prompted these two, then young men, to keep an abstract proposal without a mechanical consistent analogy.

If they knew what was to come, maybe they would have worked harder in a successful mechanical model. As it happened, after this so-called Spin, an Iso-Spin was invented to fit the data, by leaving us, so to say, in the dark, about what degrees of freedom were we really talking about.

To save the idea of these two young men of yore, we have another young man to the rescue. Recently Garrett Lisi put together Geometry and all internal charges, or Iso-Spins, in one unified geometrical object. According to Lisi, all particles and forces we know, can be represented with octonions.

If we just understand why is it that octonions provide such economical description of reality, maybe we will finally know, What is Spin?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is it too late?

Thomas L. Friedman tells us today that we cannot say we are going to act later. There is no later, it is now.

We procrastinate, at least I do.

What will I do?

I have been saving energy since I was young, I try to live a life of respect for the Earth; but I know I have to do more. Right now I am trying to carry my own weight. My family has been helping in this moment of need.

For me the best response to this call by the country representatives in Bali is to get a good job and provide for my family. I see it like New Year's good intentions.

It’s Too Late for Later

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMANPublished: December 16, 2007Bali, IndonesiaThomas L. FriedmanThe negotiators at the United Nations climate conference here in Bali came from almost 200 countries and spoke almost as many languages, but driving them all to find a better way to ...

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Gravity Probe B

This group was expected to report "early" in December their measurement of the frame dragging prediction of General Relativity. They have not finished. You can read in their Web Site:

"It is anticipated that approximately another six months until May 2008 will be needed to complete this full coverage and arrive at a definitive final result. We believe the results will be truly significant and will withstand scrutiny at the deepest scientific level. We agree with the SAC that: "This phase must include an adequate opportunity for the SAC to review the final result in some detail before publications are prepared and public announcements are made." To this end, we are planning on this review for the May 2008 time frame."

Alexei V. Filippenko

This astronomer from the University of California describes part of his reserch interests in this way:

"I am also interested in determining the physical properties of quasars and active galactic nuclei. The radiation emitted by a quasar is thought to be produced by matter being swallowed by a supermassive black hole, roughly a hundred million times more massive than the Sun, but the details are still murky. These photons ionize clouds of gas, and the resulting emission lines provide clues to the structure and nature of the central engine. I am especially fond of normal, nearby galaxies whose nuclei harbor activity similar to (but weaker than) that in classical active galaxies; at least some of these objects may have been luminous quasars in the distant past, but they are now accreting very little gas. I am part of a team that is finding supermassive black holes in the nuclei of nearby galaxies, some of which may be the remnants of long-dead quasars."

He could give clues on why two of the twenty seven highest energy particles detected by the Pierre Auger Observatory (PAO) come from the direction of the Centaurus A galaxy.

I recently asked Alex about the PAO discovery. He has this to say:

"I've not studied the Auger observations, but probably Cen A
has a very efficient collimation and acceleration mechanism for
the jet emerging from the active nucleus (supermassive black

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Italian Physicists sent a scientific instrument in orbit with an Indian space rocket on April 23, 2007. You can visit the Home Page of the collaboration here.

The American prices for space technology must have been higher. This may be part of the reason that jobs are leaving the US.

AGILE stands for: Astro-rivelatore Gamma a Immagini LEggero

I guess one has to start learning other languages besides English.

Viva La Italia!

After the Money’s Gone

By PAUL KRUGMANPublished: December 14, 2007On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced plans to lend $40 billion to banks. By my count, it’s the fourth high-profile attempt to rescue the financial system since things started falling apart about five months ago. Maybe this one will do the trick, but I wouldn’t count on it.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Neutrinos from Cen A?

Cuoco et al. have calculated the expected flux of neutrinos from the Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) Centaurus A. One can read:

"The field of UHECR physics has probably taken a major step forward with the recent detection by the Pierre Auger Observatory of a spatial correlation between the highest energy cosmic ray events and nearby AGNs [1]. 20 out of 27 events with energies above 60 EeV correlate with a nearby AGN within a radius of 3.1◦. Furthermore, 5 out of the 7 non-correlating events lie along the galactic plane where the AGN catalogues are incomplete and the largest magnetic deflections are expected."

These authors present a puzzle:

"We conclude by commenting on a puzzling aspect of the Auger data: Although many AGNs lie in the direction of the Virgo cluster, no events are detected. Although the statistics is low and this could be an exposure effect it is intriguing to notice that the issue can be settled by observations of the associated neutrino emission in IceCube."

Another possible research topic is to study the Milky Way magnetic field. It could have an "easy path" along the direction of Cent A but not of the Virgo cluster.

AGNs as Particle Accelerators

Yesterday Neronov et al. posted their paper:
Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Ray production in the polar cap regions of black hole magnetospheres.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHCR) are produced nearby in cosmological terms, i.e. at distances smaller or equal to the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin (GZK) radius of around a hundred Megaparsecs (Mpc).

Now we have detectors, big enough to detect these particles , Pierre Auger Observatory (PAO), and we thus need a good theory of the accelerators themselves. These are the biggest telescopes ever used by Mankind to observe the immediate neighborhood of our Universe. The better the knowledge of these natural-artificial hybrids, the better we will know our Universe.

The best model of AGNs is that they are Black Holes (BH) in the center of galaxies energizing their part of the universe to these very high energies we measure in the UHCRs at the PAO in Argentina.

These authors do a good job in clarifying the physics involved in these extraordinary accelerators.

They write:

"Simple order of magnitude estimates show that, in principle, the mechanism of particle acceleration in the vicinity of supermassive BHs can result in production of the ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECR) (see e.g. [18]). At the same time, the existence of the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin (GZK) cutoff [19,20] in the spectrum of UHECR, found by the HiRes experiment [21] and confirmed recently by Pierre Auger Observatory [22], points to the astrophysical origin of the primary cosmic ray particles. In this case most of the cosmic rays with energies above the cut-off energy E =1020 eV should come from nearby sources located at the distance D < 100 Mpc. Moreover, analysis of the combined HiRes, AGASA, SUGAR and Yakutsk data reveals anisotropy of arrival directions of the highest energy events, which could be related to the local Universe large scale structure [23,24]. Recently Pierre Auger Observatory has found a correlation of the arrival directions of the highest energy events with the sky positions of the nearby AGN [25]."

They find that the rotation axis of the BH has to be aligned within a few degrees with its magnetic field. This field has to be 105 G, with a BH mass of 108M, M is the Sun's mass.

All this is exciting. I remember sitting in an auditorium at the University of California at Santa Barbara, when I was a student there, listening to a lecture by Prof. Chandrasekhar about stars. Somebody asked him if he believed BHs would be observed, he was one of the world experts on the subject, and he said he did not think so. He gave some reason about measuring the metric around the hole well enough to determine it was a BH, which he thought was difficult.

Now we are almost certain that to understand the UHECRs that we do observe, the best possible candidates are huge BHs in AGNs.

Everything is different and then so similar. I remember the late Mexican physicist Carlos Graeff Fernández, an expert on Gravity, that calculated the movement of particles in the magnetic field of the Earth for the then new science of Cosmic Ray Physics. Prof. Manuel Sandoval Vallarta directed him in his endeavors, since he was an active member of the then small cosmic ray community in the world. Together with Professor Compton he proved that cosmic rays were mainly protons.

Now we have to become experts on Applied Black Hole Physics, Prof Chandrasekhar would find that odd, to better understand our huge accelerator up in the sky.

Also interesting is the fact that Jerzy Plebanski that worked in Mexico from the early sixties until his death in 2005 was one of the first to study the motion of particles in General Relativity. These studies will come handy now that we need to know how charged particles move near BHs.

Every thing is similar and yet different. Now the problems seem harder but the tools are better.

Some directions of research are:

AGN - Correlations with UHECR
AGN - Source discrimination for UHECR
AGN - Autocorrelations

The Day the Music Died

Who is killing Mexico's musicians?By Joe Contreras and Monica Campbell | Newsweek Web ExclusiveDec 7, 2007 | Updated: 7:21 p.m. ET Dec 7, 2007

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Gore and Bush

Who is right about global warming?

I cannot easily imagine two points of view so far apart between two people that are so close to power in the World.

I expect Bush to sit on it as long as he can. Only when a new person is in the White House do I expect change, and maybe that is the way it should be. After all a politician represents interests, not herself, or himself, but the interests of whoever put him/her in power.

I believe the truth is closer to Gore's side, but somehow cannot avoid thinking that Bush knows the same things as Gore, but has decided to wait Armageddon on his terms, with Blackwater surrounding whatever protected enclave he has prepared, when the masses of hungry people come knocking at his door.

I hope that whoever is reading this sides with Gore and not with Bush.

Gore Urges Bold Moves in Nobel Speech

OSLO, Dec. 10 — He has said it over and over again, in increasingly somber and urgent terms, to anyone who would listen. But former Vice President Al Gore used the occasion of his Nobel Peace Prize lecture here today to proclaim it to the world: climate change is a “planetary emergency,” he said — ...

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Mexico Last Place In PISA 2006

Science is not the best subject for young Mexicans. The study released this month by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) puts Mexican students in las place.

There is a big teachers union in charge of these fifteen year old children, and they are doing things wrong. Scientific thinking requires critical abilities, in general these children have been taught to memorize, that is not the scientific mind. Memorization is only part of what is needed, above all one needs imagination and critical thinking.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

PISA 2006

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)


• Finland, with an average of 563 score points, was the highest-performing country on the PISA 2006 science scale.

• Six other high-scoring countries had mean scores of 530 to 542 points: Canada, Japan and New Zealand and the partner countries/economies Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei and Estonia. Australia, the Netherlands, Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Ireland, and the partner countries/economies Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Macao-China also scored above the OECD average of 500 score points.

• On average across OECD countries, 1.3% of 15-year-olds reached Level 6 of the PISA 2006 science scale, the highest proficiency level. These students could consistently identify, explain and apply scientific knowledge, and knowledge about science, in a variety of complex life situations. In New Zealand and Finland this figure was at least 3.9%, three times the OECD average. In the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and Canada, as well as the partner countries/economies Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Hong Kong-China, between 2 and 3% reached Level 6.

• The number of students at Level 6 cannot be reliably predicted from a country’s overall performance. Korea was among the highest-performing countries on the PISA science scale, with an average of 522 score points, while the United States performed below the OECD average, with a score of 489. Nevertheless, the United States and Korea had similar percentages of students at Level 6.

• Over one in five students in Finland (21%) and over one in six in New Zealand (18%) reached at least Level 5. In Japan, Australia and Canada, and the partner economies Hong Kong-China and Chinese Taipei, this figure was between 14 and 16% (OECD average 9%). By contrast, 15 of the countries in the survey had fewer than 1% of students reaching either Level 5 or Level 6, and nearly 25 countries had 5% or fewer reaching the two highest levels.

• The number of students at very low proficiency is also an important indicator – not necessarily in relation to the development of future scientific personnel but in terms of citizens’ ability to participate fully in society and in the labour market. At Level 2, students start to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. Across the OECD, on average 19.2% were classified as below Level 2, including 5.2% below Level 1.

• Males and females showed no difference in average science performance in the majority of countries, including 22 of the 30 OECD countries. In 12 countries, females outperformed males, on average, while males outperformed females in 8 countries. Most of these differences were small. In no OECD country was the gender difference larger than 12 points on the science scale. This is different from reading and mathematics where significant gender differences were observed.

• However, similarities in average performance mask certain gender differences: In most countries, females were stronger in identifying scientific issues, while males were stronger at explaining phenomena scientifically. Males performed substantially better than females when answering physics questions. Last but not least, in most countries more females attend higher performing, academically oriented tracks and schools than do males. As a result of this, in many countries gender differences in science were substantial within schools or programmes, even if they appeared small overall.

• On average across OECD countries, around one-third of all variation in student performance (33%) was between schools, but this varied widely from one country to another. In Germany and the partner country Bulgaria performance variation between schools was about twice the OECD average. It was over one and a half times the average in the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan and Italy, and the partner countries Slovenia, Argentina and Chile. In most of these countries, the grouping or tracking of students affected this result.

• In other countries, school differences played only a minor part in performance variation. In Finland less than 5% of the overall performance variation among OECD countries lay between schools and in Iceland and Norway it was still less than 10%. Other countries in which performance was not very closely related to the schools in which students were enrolled included Sweden, Poland, Spain, Denmark and Ireland as well as the partner countries Latvia and Estonia. Considering that Finland also showed the highest overall performance in science suggests that Finnish parents can rely on high and consistent performance standards across schools in the entire education system.

• Students’ socio-economic differences accounted for a significant part of between- school differences in some countries. This factor contributed most to between-school performance variation in the United States, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Slovak Republic, Germany, Greece and New Zealand, and the partner countries Bulgaria, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

• Less than 10% of the variation in student performance was explained by student background in five of the seven countries with the highest mean science scores of above 530 points (Finland, Canada and Japan, and the partner countries/economies Hong Kong- China and Estonia).

• There is no relationship between the size of countries and the average performance of 15- year-olds in PISA. There is also no cross-country relationship between the proportion of foreign-born students in countries and the average performance of countries. Last but not least, an analysis undertaken in the context of the PISA 2003 assessment showed that there were few differences among countries in students’ test motivation.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Plebanski action extended to a unification of gravity...

The Plebanski action extended to a unification of gravity and Yang-Mills theory. by Lee SmolinWe study a unification of gravity with Yang-Mills fields based on a simple extension of the Plebanski action to a Lie group G which contains the local lorentz group. The Coleman-Mandula theorem is avoided because the theory necessarily has a ..

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Sidney Richard Coleman: 1937 - 2007

Harvard physics classes popularHe made dense ideas understandable, and students liked him for thatBy Whitney Woodward | Tribune staff reporter November 20, 2007

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Plebanski, Lisi, and Smolin

Lee Smolin sent a preprint today to the Los Alamos electronic archive:

The Plebanski action extended to a unification of gravity and Yang-Mills theory.

I remember Jerzy Plebanski as a sensitive and deep thinker. I hope that finally somebody (Garrett Lisi) helps us to understand what he did.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Intercepting Iran’s Take on America

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMANPublished: December 5, 2007There are two intelligence analyses that are relevant to the balance of power between the U.S. and Iran — one is the latest U.S. assessment of Iran, which certainly gave a much more complex view of what is happening there. The other is the Iranian ...

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Fractal Mind

I am reading Richard Ogle's Small World. I just read about emergence of system properties by linking idea spaces that were disconnected. The interesting thought that came to my mind, is that inside the brain of the agents in this emerging idea space connections, also have connected regions that get connected as a consequence of the external event. He says that the same network laws are operating at both levels, inside and outside the brain. Even though he doesn't indicate it, this self contained structure, like a Russian Matryoshka Doll, is a fractal.

Ogle is saying then, that the mind outside follows the laws of the mind inside, these are network laws.

Therefore if the laws are the same, then there is similarity between our brains that already exist, and these emerging minds that we we keep incorporating to our own minds, creating a new Mind at Large.

Pakistani Rivals Threaten Boycott of Elections

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 3 — Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the two former prime ministers who have long bitterly opposed each other, joined with an opposition alliance on Monday to denounce what they see as an unfair environment leading up to parliamentary elections planned for January.

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An Assessment Jars a Foreign Policy Debate About Iran

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here.

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Now and Forever

By BOB HERBERTPublished: December 4, 2007Most of the time we pretend it’s not there: The staggering financial cost of the war in Iraq, which continues to soar, unchecked, like a rocket headed toward the moon and beyond.

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Bush Says Iran Still a Danger Despite Report on Weapons

IS HE SERIOUS!?!?? CAN SOMEONE PLEASE... wait I shouldn't say it because I don't want to get arrested...

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Monday, December 03, 2007


If one can imagine oneself making a living, then one can find a way to make money. I am going to write an example here.

I see myself teaching a group of students very interested in understanding physics. Maybe 5, maybe 4 students. If they are really interested we can meet five times a week for two hours. If I charge them $50 for one hour I will make $10 000 a month. Not bad!

Now my problem is how to convince some students to do that. This is a problem because that is not the way physics is taught. One has to show proficiency and be accepted in a university, then some tenured professor teaches a group of students. Since I do not have tenure, I have a problem.

I used to have tenure in Mexico but they only paid me $700 a month.

Imagination has to be used again.

There are more than three hundred million Americans, at least half are young. Assuming one of every ten wants to study Physics, we have fifteen million young people. Conservatively let us take fifteen hundred students I can convince to study Physics under my guidance, then I can charge much less to get those $10 000 a month. Now each has to give me almost seven dollars a month. This seems more realistic.

Krugman On How We Innovated Our Way Into A Financial Crisis Worse Than...

The financial crisis that began late last summer, then took a brief vacation in September and October, is back with a vengeance. How bad is it? Well, I’ve never seen financial insiders this spooked. Market players seem truly horrified — because they’ve suddenly realized that they don’t understand the complex financial system they created.

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Financial Crisis

Above you can read a note by Paul Krugman. He is a professor at Princeton University. The way I read it, he is saying the sky is falling. I hope he is wrong.

Complex "imaginative" financial instruments convinced investors that their money was safe when it wasn't. Now those financial "hackers" make it almost impossible to track the money trail. The reaction from money people is to stop lending. We may all fall down.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Who Am I?

I am a work in progress.

I am a Mexican-American physicist. I have not applied for US citizenship yet, but I am entitled to. My father worked in the US before I was born, and then went to live in Mexico, he was initially from Guatemala. I plan to become an American citizen.

I will also keep my Mexican citizenship, just like Edward James Olmos. What are we then, Mexicans, Americans? We are both, and that is powerful, because the future belongs to The Cosmic Race that Jose Vasconcelos conceived of.

Mexico and the US

I posted below two pieces from the New York Times, one is from Mexico the other from the US.

Luis Mandoki makes movies in Hollywood and Mexico. They did not want to distribute his documentary about last year's election in Mexico, because powerful people there were against it. The film is doing well as you can read in the article.

Tom Friedman is an astute observer of the World. I enjoyed his very well received book, The World is Flat. Nevertheless there is something that I don't like, he is not in tune with the feelings of the Third World, as Mandoki is.

It is interesting to me how your place of birth affects your worldview so much.

I admire these two people and only wished they were closer politically.

Both are doing a very good job though.

The man I really admire in the movie industry is Edward James Olmos. He participated last week in the first Chicano Film Festival in Mexico. He is both a Mexican and an American citizen. I truly identify with him.

Film on Mexico’s Disputed ’06 Election Stirs Emotions

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 1 — A documentary about last year’s disputed presidential election has drawn big crowds and generated controversy here, after its director, Luis Mandoki, waged a long battle to find a distributor willing to take on a politically charged film.

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The People We Have Been Waiting For

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMANPublished: December 2, 2007It was 60 degrees on Thursday in Washington, well above normal, and as I slipped away for some pre-Christmas golf, I found myself thinking about a wickedly funny story that The Onion, the satirical newspaper, ran the other day: “Fall Canceled after 3 Billion Seasons”:

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Saturday, December 01, 2007


Recently Pat Buchanan wrote yet another book:

Day of Reckoning.

He obviously insists that my people have to go. Mexicans are not German, Scot Irish, and Irish like him, and even though we are Catholic we are not born speaking English. We have to go.

He does not say it like that, because he knows better. All he says, as far as I'm concerned as a code, is Illegals out. But we all know which illegals he means.

His old friend Ronald Reagan, did something like that when he started his presidential campaign near a town known for its racist population.

Deep inside he does not like poor people from the Third World moving here. I guess he forgot where he is coming from.

Media Lens

This new link in my page is defined by themselves this way:

"MediaLens has grown out of our frustration with the unwillingness, or inability, of the mainstream media to tell the truth about the real causes and extent of many of the problems facing us, such as human rights abuses, poverty, pollution and climate change. Because much modern suffering is rooted in the unlimited greed of corporate profit-maximising - in the subordination of people and planet to profit - it seems to us to be a genuine tragedy that society has for so long been forced to rely on the corporate media for 'accurate' information. It seems clear to us that quite obvious conflicts of interest mean it is all but impossible for the media to provide this information. We did not expect the Soviet Communist Party's newspaper Pravda to tell the truth about the Communist Party, why should we expect the corporate press to tell the truth about corporate power?"

You can read them in:
Media Lens

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