Knol, the Google Free Encyclopedia on the Web

Google has opened a new free encyclopedia “Knol” (abbreviation of Knowledge). It has certain advantages over Wikipedia, with which it will compete: 1) articles are published under their authors’ names; 2) authors have the option to exclude any changes by readers, allow changes which must be approved by the author, or allow any changes; 3) articles can be reviewed; 4) articles on the same topic by different authors are accepted; 5) it is possible to write comments on articles.
I published an article (in German) on Meeresparasiten (marine parasites) in Knol. Have a look:

Wittgenstein, Postmodern and Other Philosophies and their Relevance in the Modern World

In his brilliant book “The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Penguin Books, 2007” Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues that unlikely, unforeseeable events are of extreme importance, much more so than probable ones, in history, politics, science, etc. However, attention is usually paid to the latter. This reinforces my view, expressed in several earlier posts, on the importance of nonequilibrium conditions in ecology, and on the danger of making political decisions based on equilibrium assumptions (click Nash equilibria in politics). In this post I briefly draw attention to his views on developments in modern philosophy, which agree with what I said about the hairsplitting in discussions of the “Nonidentity Problem”, and about “Postmodern Philosophy”.

Here are some extracts from his book (Prologue: pp. xxvii-xxviii):

“Talk is cheap.”

“Indeed those who read too much Wittgenstein ……. may be under the impression that language problems are important. They may certainly be important to attain prominence in philosophy departments”, but for not much else.

“Thus I rail against sterile skepticism”, the kind we can do nothing about, and against the exceedingly theoretical language problems that have made much of modern philosophy largely irrelevant to what is derisively called the “general public”. ” One reason, according to Taleb, is that academics in abstract disciplines depend on each other’s opinion, without having any external checks.

(Taleb is Professor in the Sciences of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and author of the bestselling (in 18 languages) “Fooled by Randomness”)

I have just started reading the book and may return to it later. I know little about Wittgenstein, hence comments by professional philosophers and others would be most welcome.

It’s the Oil, Stupid! Alan Greenspan on the Iraq War

During two weeks away from Armidale, I have had time to read three very interesting books

Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence, 2007 (The autobiography of the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve)

Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat, The Globalized World in the Twent-First Century, 2006 (an account of the causes and effects of globalization by the three times Pulitzer Prize winner)


Loretta Napoleoni, Rogue Economics, Capitalism’s New Reality, 2008 (an account of the effects of globalization by the author of the bestselling (in 13 languages) Terror Inc.: Tracing the Money behind Global Terrorism).

Each book is fascinating and stimulating. I shall discuss aspects of each in later posts (hopefully, if I have the time).

Today just a single quote from Greenspan page 463:

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil”.

There you have it. After all, Greenspan has had very close contacts with the most important figures in several presidencies, including the present one. He should know.

Latest on Iran: Is this Aggression?

From the Sydney Morning Herald 1.7.08 (Full text here:

“Talk heats up on Iran after claim of raids.

THE United States is running a covert operation into Iran funded by $US400 million ($416 million) siphoned from other programs with authorisation from Democratic congressional leaders, according to a report in The New Yorker.
The US Congress agreed to the request from the President, George Bush, late last year to fund a large escalation of secret raids against Iran, the foreign affairs reporter Seymour Hersh wrote.
“United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with presidential authorisation, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of ‘high-value targets’ in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed,” Hersh wrote.
The report, which did not name any sources, was flatly denied yesterday by the American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Mr Crocker told CNN: “US forces are not operating across the Iraqi border into Iran, in the south or anywhere else.” ”

If true, is this aggression?

See earlier posts on Iran/Iraq, in particular