Interview with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

This Spiegel Interview with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad is…fascinating:

Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you one thing: How much longer can this go on? How much longer do you think the German people have to accept being taken hostage by the Zionists? When will that end — in 20, 50, 1,000 years?

SPIEGEL: We can only speak for ourselves. DER SPIEGEL is nobody’s hostage; SPIEGEL does not deal only with Germany’s past and the Germans’ crimes. We’re not Israel’s uncritical ally in the Palestian conflict. But we want to make one thing very clear: We are critical, we are independent, but we won’t simply stand by without protest when the existential right of the state of Israel, where many Holocaust survivors live, is being questioned.

Ahmadinejad: Precisely that is our point. Why should you feel obliged to the Zionists? If there really had been a Holocaust, Israel ought to be located in Europe, not in Palestine.

SPIEGEL: Do you want to resettle a whole people 60 years after the end of the war?

Ahmadinejad: Five million Palestinians have not had a home for 60 years. It is amazing really: You have been paying reparations for the Holocaust for 60 years and will have to keep paying up for another 100 years. Why then is the fate of the Palestinians no issue here?

SPIEGEL: The Europeans support the Palestinians in many ways. After all, we also have an historic responsibility to help bring peace to this region finally. But don’t you share that responsibility?

Ahmadinejad: Yes, but aggression, occupation and a repetition of the Holocaust won’t bring peace. What we want is a sustainable peace. This means that we have to tackle the root of the problem. I am pleased to note that you are honest people and admit that you are obliged to support the Zionists.

SPIEGEL: That’s not what we said, Mr. President.

Ahmadinejad: You said Israelis.

A reading list for aspiring knowledge workers

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Jim McGee presents A reading list for aspiring knowledge workers under a number of topics, like Learning, Mindfulness, and Reflection:

Langer, Ellen J.

The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action
Schon, Donald A.

Teaching As a Subversive Activity
Postman, Neil

Learning As a Way of Being : Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water
Vaill, Peter B.

Filters Against Folly : How to Survive Despite Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent
Hardin, Garrett

Improv Wisdom : Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up
Madson, Patricia Ryan

How to Read a Book
Adler, Mortimer Jerome

Infinite Story

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Infinite Story presents itself as the “Never-Ending Story Engine” — but it used to go by another, more recognizable, name:

Due to a Cease & Desist from the owner of the Choose Your Own Adventure patents, this site was forced to change its url from to Please do not confuse our Infinite Stories with the Choose Your Own Adventure printed books as our media are not affiliated.

Mongolian Sumo Wrestlers

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Years ago, Hawaiian sumo wrestlers took the sport by storm. Now Mongolian Sumo Wrestlers, coming from a country with a strong wrestling tradition, are doing the same:

Mongolian-born champion Hakuho, right, hoists compatriot Kyokushuzan high during their bout at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena on Monday May 18, 2006. Hakuho notched a win on Day 12 of the 15-day meet and remained tied for the lead with Miyabiyama.

I blogged on another Mongolian sumo wrestler, Asashoryu, and his hair-grabbing scandal a few years ago.

Baby with 3 arms may have surgery

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Baby with 3 arms may have surgery:

Doctors in Shanghai are considering surgery options for a two-month old boy born with an unusually well-formed third arm.

Neither of the boy’s two left arms is fully functional and tests have so far been unable to determine which was more developed, said Dr. Chen Bochang, head of the orthopedics department at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

What Ph.D. students really have to fear

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Joel Waldfogel explains that What Ph.D. students really have to fear is a weak job market at the precise time they enter it:

If the quality of initial placements persistently affects career success, then the academics who start in boom years should remain in better positions five or 10 years out—even though the bust-year graduates were equally talented and qualified when they left the starting gate. And sure enough, five years into their respective careers, members of the boom cohorts are more likely to hold good jobs at Top 50 institutions than similar candidates entering the job market in bust years. In general, about a quarter of elite Ph.D.s end up at first-tier institutions. Starting one’s career in a boom year raises the probability of ending up at a Top 50 department by between 40 and 60 percent.

Boom-year graduates don’t end up in better jobs arbitrarily. Along the way they publish more articles that are more influential. Despite their elite credentials when hired, more than a third of the econ Ph.D.s in Oyer’s study had not published anything 10 years after graduation. The other two-thirds had published an average of 6.2 articles. Starting at a Top 50 institution raised that total by roughly a factor of two.

What about the effect on publication in the best-regarded journals—the only way to earn real street cred in the field? Most economists never crack these outlets in their entire careers. But an initial job in a Top 50 institution has an enormous impact, raising the probability of publishing in one of the top five journals by a whopping 50 percent. So, quality of the first job really matters.

To the list of graduate-student anxieties, then, we can add this: In the year I look for a job, will the Fed ease interest rates to keep the economy growing and the academic job market humming? Because if fate nudges you into the academic dungeon, you’ll probably stay there.

Project Babylon: Gerald Bull’s Downfall

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

If you haven’t read about Project Babylon: Gerald Bull’s Downfall, it’s quite fascinating:

His success on the G5 won the attention of both Iraq and China. He built and sold advanced artillery to both nations through an Austrian outfit throughout the 1980s. Having developed something of a personal rapport with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Bull finally saw an opportunity to realize his ultimate goal. He convinced Hussein that, like Israel, Iraq needed the ability to launch satellites into orbit if it were ever to become a true regional power.

Work began on Project Babylon with a prototype of the supergun in the mid-1980s. This gun, named Baby Babylon, had a bore diameter of about 1 foot, and was approximately 100 feet long. It was mounted horizontally for test purposes, and was believed to have been constructed solely to develop the technology needed for Big Babylon. Nevertheless, Baby Babylon would have had a range of over 400 miles if properly mounted.

The appropriately named Big Babylon was so large that it had to be dug into a hillside for support. Its bore was 3 feet in diameter, and was over 500 feet long. Once completed it would have been capable of launching over 2 tons into orbit — about the size of a small reconnaissance satellite.

Marriage And Great Science Don’t Mix

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Marriage And Great Science Don’t Mix:

Several years ago, Satoshi Kanazawa, then a psychologist at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, analyzed a biographical database of 280 great scientists — mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and biologists. When he calculated the age of each scientist at the peak of his career — the sample was predominantly male — Kanazawa noted an interesting trend. After a crest during the third decade of life, scientific productivity — as evidenced by major discoveries and publications — fell off dramatically with age. When he looked at the marital history of the sample, he found that the decline in productivity was less severe among men who had never been married. As a group, unmarried scientists continued to achieve well into their late 50s, and their rates of decline were slower.

Any Officer Who Goes Into Action Without His Sword is Improperly Dressed

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

“Mad” Jack Churchill once said, “Any Officer Who Goes Into Action Without His Sword is Improperly Dressed“:

During the BEF’s fighting retreat, Churchill remained aggressive, unwilling to give up a yard of ground while extracting the maximum cost from the enemy. He was especially fond of raids and counterattacks, leading small groups of picked soldiers against the advancing Germans. He presented a strange, almost medieval figure at the head of his men, carrying not only his war bow and arrows, but his sword as well.

As befitted his love of things Scottish, Churchill carried the basket-hilted claymore (technically a claybeg, the true claymore being an enormous two-handed sword). Later on, asked by a general who awarded him a decoration why he carried a sword in action, Churchill is said to have answered: “In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

Read the whole article.

Mincemeat and the Imaginary Man

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

In May, 1943, a Spanish fisherman retrieved the waterlogged corpse of a British military officer carrying a locked briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.

Naturally the body — and the briefcase — ended up in Nazi hands — just as planned. From Mincemeat and the Imaginary Man:

Montagu’s team quietly procured the body of a 34-year-old man who had recently died with pneumonia, whose lungs already contained fluid as a drowned man’s would. The family of the deceased granted permission to use the body for this mission on the condition that the man’s identity never be revealed. As the body waited in cold storage, the fictional life of Major William Martin was fabricated in great detail by the Twenty Committee (often referred to by the roman numeral XX or ‘double-cross’). The corpse was given identification, keys, personal letters, and other possessions. In order to explain why the man would be found chained to his briefcase, Montagu’s team planted evidence suggesting that Major Martin was an absent-minded but responsible chap, including overdue bills and a replacement ID card. Such a man might chain himself to a briefcase full of sensitive documents in order to prevent its loss during the flight.

On 28 April 1943, Major Martin was placed aboard the submarine HMS Seraph in a special steel canister packed with dry ice. The crew set off for the coast of Spain, where it was likely that a citizen of the Axis-aligned country would locate the body and report it to authorities. After two days at sea, the submarine surfaced about a mile off the coast of Spain at 4:30 in the morning. Believing that the heavy canister contained top secret meteorological equipment, members of the crew carried it on deck, after which point everyone aside from the officers was ordered below deck. There in the dark, Lt. Norman L.A. (Bill) Jewell, the commander of Seraph, explained the mission and swore the men to secrecy. Major Martin’s body was then removed from the canister onto the deck, where he was fitted with his life jacket and chained to his briefcase. The men read the 39th Psalm and committed the body to the sea, where the tide gradually drew it ashore.

Once the body was discovered, Britain’s requests for the return of the briefcase helped complete the illusion that there was sensitive information contained therein. To further the hoax, Montagu arranged to have Major Martin’s name included on the next British casualty list in The Times. When the documents were finally returned to the British two weeks later, microscopic examination revealed that the Germans had indeed opened and resealed the letters. Additionally, German transmissions decrypted by Ultra indicated that the Nazis were moving forces to defend Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. This news prompted a brief cable to Winston Churchill to inform him of the success: ‘Mincemeat Swallowed Whole.’

Snakes on a M—–f—ing Plane

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

In case you saw the trailer for Snakes on a Plane this weekend and heard the crowd roar with laughter and didn’t know why, I present the original Snakes on a M—–f—ing Plane blog posting that set off an chain reaction across the blogosphere.

I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch!

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Like most people in the X-Men 3 audience, I got a chuckle out of Juggernaut’s line, “I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch!” What I didn’t realize at the time was that the line was a bit of an inside joke — someone had pimp-dubbed the old X-Men cartoon and put it online.

UFC 60: Royce Gracie vs Matt Hughes

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

If you’re a fan of the sport, you must watch UFC 60: Royce Gracie vs Matt Hughes. (And God bless YouTube.)

Edit: Regrettably, YouTube had to take down the video. Fortunately, there’s still another copy up — for now.

Baghdad, USA

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Baghdad, USA describes the elaborate simulations put on for American soldiers:

The Cubic guys work hard for a good fake. They’ve staged bloody aftermaths of bomb attacks, applying gory makeup to Vietnam veterans with missing limbs to make extra-convincing bomb victims. Teams of “firemarkers” zip around the Box on all-terrain vehicles, rigging up Hollywood-style pyrotechnics for roadside bombs and explosives-laden cars. Prevatt reminisces about a mass grave they created, a charnel pit of bound mannequins with simulated head wounds. “We put a bunch of bones and meat in there and buried it for a couple days so it would smell right,” he says.

Epicenter of AIDS Is Found: Africa, 1930

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

NPR’s All Things Considered says the Epicenter of AIDS Is Found: Africa, 1930:

Scientists say they have pinpointed the origin of the AIDS virus. It all started in southern Cameroon in West Central Africa around 1930, according to a study published online by the journal Science. The virus that started the global pandemic — recognized 25 years ago next week — passed from chimps to humans in that area.

The reservoir of the ancestral virus still exists among chimpanzee communities in the same area of Cameroon.

Now that scientists have uncovered HIV’s origin, they’re hoping to find clues to help battle the pandemic that has since infected 60 million people around the world. Among the first tasks: studying how a virus that doesn’t harm chimps can infect humans and devastate their immune systems.