Republicans must realize this evening that in America they benefit as there are only two parties. America is as fed up with them as they are with Obama. If there was a meaningful third party in the US, they would wipe the floor with both parties.

From an analysis of Scott Brown’s election victory, at Iain Dale’s blog.

Hmmm. There is a meaningful third party here, and we’re just as fed up with them as we are with the rest of the political establishment. Yet none of the smaller parties seem poised for a breakthrough. The malaise, including low turnouts for elections, runs deeper than disillusionment with certain parties.

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Interesting post here:

In a Japanese laboratory, a group of scientists is encouraging a rapidly expanding amoeba-like blob to consume Tokyo. Thankfully, the blob in question is a “slime mould” just around 20cm wide, and “Tokyo” is represented by a series of oat flakes dotted about a large plastic dish. It’s all part of a study on better network design through biological principles. Despite growing of its own accord with no plan in mind, the mould has rapidly produced a web of slimy tubes that look a lot like Tokyo’s actual railway network.

The slimy tubes work independently of one another, it seems:

The mould’s abilities are a wonder of self-optimisation. It has no sense of forward-planning, no overhead maps or intelligence to guide its moves. It creates an efficient network by laying down plasmodia indiscriminately, strengthening whatever works and cutting back on whatever doesn’t. The approach seems as haphazard as a human planner putting railway tracks everywhere, and then removing the ones that aren’t performing well. Nonetheless, the slime mould’s methods (or lack thereof) produced a network with comparable cost, efficiency and tolerance for faults to the planned human attempt.

The lesson here is obvious: complex adaptive systems are as efficient as planning when it comes to relatively simple problems like a city’s transport routes. When the complexity of the problem is increased, complex adaptive systems continue to function, as we know because we can buy cheap pencils. There’s no example of similar success in the area of planning, that I can think of.

Why did I choose pencils as an example? Over to you, Uncle Milt:

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… combat spacecraft would likely get around the same way the Apollo spacecraft went to the Moon and back: with orbit changes effected by discrete main-engine burns. The only other major option is a propulsion system like ion engines or solar sails, which produce a very low amount of thrust over a very long time. However, the greater speed from burning a chemical, nuclear, or antimatter rocket in a single maneuver is likely a better tactical option. One implication of rocket propulsion is that there will be relatively long periods during which Newtonian physics govern the motions of dogfighting spacecraft, punctuated by relatively short periods of maneuvering. Another is that combat in orbit would be very different from combat in “deep space,” which is what you probably think of as how space combat should be – where a spacecraft thrusts one way, and then keeps going that way forever. No, around a planet, the tactical advantage in a battle would be determined by orbit dynamics: which ship is in a lower (and faster) orbit than which; who has a circular orbit and who has gone for an ellipse; relative rendezvous trajectories that look like winding spirals rather than straight lines.

Second, there are only a few ways to maneuver the attitude of a spacecraft around – to point it in a new direction…

This reminds me of how I understand sea battles were fought in the age of sail. Vessels at the mercy of the elements, wind (gravity for space ships), plotting long courses, sweeping in arcs towards each other, advantage gained by catching wind (or a lower orbit). Interesting to think of space Admirals in the future, memorising Nelson’s tactics.

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Deborah had been set up to drive a car packed with drugs from Spain to France. As she knew nothing about the drugs, the trial court cleared her of all charges, yet the prosecution appealed.

As neither Deborah nor her lawyer was informed about the appeal, no one was there to present her defence and she was convicted. She knew nothing about this until 2008 when she was arrested at Alicante airport after a family holiday. After a month on remand, the Spanish courts refused to extradite her because so many years had passed. She returned to the UK but was arrested again at Gatwick. Thankfully, the British courts agreed it would be unjust to extradite her. Yet the French refuse to remove the warrant, which means Deborah would be rearrested if she left the UK.

Although designed to deal with serious crime, EAWs are often issued for minor crimes. This puts huge pressure on the police and courts, and shipping people across Europe for petty crimes is, in itself, grossly disproportionate.

Law Society Gazette.

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Of Middle Eastern politics:

16. Israel has often been accused of “ethnic cleansing” of the Arabs in the “occupied territories”. The demography bears this out, because the Arab population of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza has:
a) plummeted from 6,500,000 in 1967 to 3,000,000 in 2009;
b) plummeted from an estimated 5,000,000 in 1967 to less than 2,000,000 in 2009;
c) remained steady at 3,000,000, despite huge natural growth in the rest of the world;
d) increased at one tenth of the pace of natural population growth;
e) increased from about 750,000 in 1967 to an estimated 3,700,000 in 2009, a population growth of nearly 500% in barely more than a generation, which is one of the highest rates of increase anywhere in the world.

17. Israel has also been accused of “ethnic cleansing” of Arabs who are citizens of the state, and deliberately enforcing policies designed to keep the Arab population small. This, too, is shown by the demography, in that the Israeli Arab population has:
a) dropped from slightly over 1,000,000 (40% of the overall population) in 1948 to 750,000 (20% of the population) in 2009;
b) remained at a steady 1,000,000 from 1948 to 2009, while the overall population has increased seven-fold;
c) increased from 500,000 in 1948 to 1,000,000 in 2009, representing a drop from 35% of the overall population to just 12% in 58 years;
d) decreased steadily by 2% per year from 1948 onwards;
e) increased from 150,000 (15% of the overall population) in 1948 to about 1,420,000 (22% of the overall population) in 2009.

Via Snoopy.

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John King made an interesting observation: Scott Brown took off during the Christmas Day bombing incident and the candidates’ very different reactions to that incident.

UPDATE: CNN’s reporter says Democrats were shocked by the “rage” that has now turned against them. Did they not see the tea party protests? Ah, no. They were busy mocking. Did they not watch the two gubernatorial races in 2009? Nope. They were spinning. That’s why they’re shocked now.

Commentary Magazine.

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No thaw. A little more snow last night. Cannot unfreeze kitchen tap but unfroze the waste pipe by pouring boiling water down the straight part & hanging hot water bottle over the bend. Tried to dig a hole to bury some refuse but found it impossible even with the pick. Even at 6” depth the ground is like a stone.

9 eggs.

George Orwell’s diary, 19th January 1940.

UPDATE: From the entry for the 15th Jan 1940:

This must be the longest cold snap since 1916-17, when we had very similar weather (about end of February 1917).

1916 was in the previous cold cycle, in 1940 the warm period that had followed was starting to turn downwards, from its peak in the middle 1930s, into what would become the cold cycle that ended at the close of the 1970s. Interesting that Orwell noticed the period. But then, he had the mind of a scientist. From the same entry:

Today an egg rolled out of one of the houses & got frozen. On breaking it find that the white goes to a substance like jelly with bubbles in it & the yoke° goes to a consistency like that of stiff putty.

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