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Archive for November, 2008

Host Specificity Index: New Paper

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

A new paper has just come out:

Rohde, K. and Rohde, P.P. (2008). How to measure ecological host specificity. Vie et Milieu-Life and Environment 58 (2), 121-124.

It deals with the following problem: most parasites infect more than one host species, nectar feeding birds, as well as bees and other insects, usually visit more than one plant species, etc. Nevertheless, they often have preferences for particular “host” species. How do we measure this? Obviously, just counting the host species is unsatisfactory, because this would ignore such preferences. Our index considers not just the number of hosts, but the intensity and frequency of their use as well.

Albert Einstein: I Believe

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I read again in a book published almost 70 years ago (“I Believe. Nineteen Personal Philosophies”, Unwin Press, London 1940). It contains, among others, a brief (five page) contribution by Albert Einstein. It is worth quoting from it:

“I do not believe we can have any freedom at all in the philosophical sense, for we act not only under external compulsion but also by inner necessity. Schopenhauer’s saying – “A man can surely do what he wills to do, but he cannot determine what he wills” – impressed itself upon me in youth and has always consoled me when I have witnessed or suffered life’s hardships. This conviction is a perpetual breeder of tolerance, for it does not allow us to take ourselves or others too seriously; it makes rather for a sense of humour.

To ponder interminably over the reason for one’s own existence or the meaning of life in general seems to me, from an objective point of view, to be sheer folly. And yet everyone holds certain ideals by which he guides his aspiration and his judgment. The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”

………..

“This subject brings me to that vilest offspring of the herd mind – the odious militia. The man who enjoys marching in line and file to the strains of music falls below my contempt; he received his great brain by mistake – the spinal cord would have been amply sufficient. ……. War is low and despicable, and I rather be smitten to shreds than participate in such doings.

Such  a stain on humanity should be erased without delay. I think well enough of human nature to believe that it would have been wiped out long ago had not the common sense of nations been systematically corrupted through school and press for business and political reasons.”

Who is to Blame? The War in Georgia II.

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

In a previous post I drew attention to the difficulties in attributing blame for the outbreak of the war between Russia and Georgia.  Western media, generally, blamed Russia. Here is the latest about the Russia-Georgia war from the New York Times.

Full account here.
Excerpt:

“Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression. Georgia moved forces toward the border of the breakaway region of South Ossetia on Aug. 7, at the start of what it called a defensive war with separatists there and with Russian forces.

Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.”

Interestingly, in my first post I had two BBC links, one of them on the effects of the Georgian attack on civilians in South Ossetia. Apparently, the report was taken off the BBC website very soon (the very same day I read it) after it had first been published. At least I could not link into it after my first successful attempt. Another example of media bias, or a technical hitch?

Wilhelm Busch: Über Dummheit

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

hinten-1.jpg

Wilhelm Busch: Über Dummheit. Ausgewählt aus der Zitate-Sammlung im Projekt Gutenberg, der Spiegel:

“Dummheit, die man bei den anderen sieht,
Wirkt meist erhebend aufs Gemüt.”

“Wenn andere klüger sind als wir,
Das macht uns selten nur Pläsier,
Doch die Gewissheit, das sie dümmer,
Erfreut fast immer.”

Zeichnung “Von hinten” von Klaus Rohde.

The Farce Continues: The US Elections and Religion

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Here are some excerpts from an article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Guardian, 21.10.08. Full text here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/oct/21/religion-christianity-palin

“God bother in Wasilla. The resurgence of religion now marks the widest divide between US and European politics.”

“John McCain has tried to negatively associate Barack Obama with Jeremiah Wright, his fire-eating radical pastor (or former pastor), but much less attention has been paid to Sarah Palin’s membership of the Assembly Church of God in Wasilla and to her own pastor, Ed Kalnins”

“According to Kalnins, the Jewish people must be gathered into the Land of Israel as a preliminary to Armageddon. When that vast conflict comes the Jews will be converted, or possibly annihilated, and it will be followed by the Rapture.

Already Kalnins sees “the storm clouds are gathering” through conflict in the Middle East: “Scripture specifically mentions oil instability as a sign of the Rapture. We’re seeing more and more oil wars. The contractions of the fulfilment of prophecies are getting tighter and tighter.” And he hopes to witness the Rapture soon. “I’m just looking at the turmoil of the world, Iraq, other places – everywhere people are fighting against Christ,” he says. Since Palin is one of his flock, she presumably believes this too. She certainly believes that Jesus told us to invade Iraq: she said so from the pulpit.

“Not long ago John McCain was obliged to disown John Hagee, a Texan preacher with a huge following who is not only militantly hostile to Catholicism and Islam but believes that “Hitler was a hunter” who had been sent by God to drive the Jews to Israel. ”

Sarah Palin as President?

Sarah Palin as Vice-President to a belligerent Commander-in Chief?

God help us.

Richard Dawkins may have a case, after all.