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One Damn Thing After Another
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One need offer no apology for saying that the supreme virtue of this war is that Saddam Hussein was gotten rid of. Period. The very man who had established arguably the closest approximation of a genuine fascist state in the Arab world, that sustained itself on fear, repression, genocide, cult of personality and wanton murder; a state whose law was that those who rule are the law...It is likely that over the next few months more of the Arab world, especially the hitherto silent, moderate, secular end of that world, are going to come to the same conclusion about the war in Iraq. It will not silence the professional anti-warriors in the West who cannot imagine any action of the United States as being for the best; but it represents precisely the sort of thing whicch makes President Bush's goal enuciated today,
No, I don’t believe that by going to war, America had dark designs on Iraq’s oil or pursued an equally dark conspiracy to ?help Israel.? I believe that the US, perhaps willy-nilly, will end up helping Iraqis regain their human sanity, their social composure and the national will to rebuild their devastated nation.
"Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come," Mr. Bush went on. "In many nations of the Middle East, countries of great strategic importance, democracy has not yet taken root."
Finally, he came to Iraq. "Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands," he said. "American and coalition forces are sacrificing for the peace of Iraq and for the security of free nations."
new york times
The Prism and the Pendulum:
The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science
By Robert P. Crease
Random House hc 244 pp 32.95
When my ball bearing trundled down its inclined plane in Physics 12 I was just happy to get observations which matched what I was pretty sure was the expected result. Beauty had nothing to do with it. When Galileo did the same experiments in the very early 1600's he was not looking for Beauty either; he wanted to solve the riddle of gravitational acceleration. No small trick as Aristotle said there was no such thing and no one had ever thought to check this assertion.
Beauty, as philosopher Robert P. Crease, is quick to point out is often used by scientists to describe experiments, but that usage is contested. After all, while Newton's experiments with prisms are certainly elegant and, forgive me, illuminating, they disclose truths about the universe which would have been discovered by someone even if Newton had never existed. As quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg put it: "If I had never lived, someone else would have formulated the principle of determinacy. If Beethoven had never lived, no one would have written Opus 111."
By setting out ten striking experiments, each of which fundamentally altered the way in which science and, eventually the culture, understood the physical world, Crease makes a strong claim for importance of experimental science. His claims for beauty are less convincing though no less well written.
This is a book worth having simply as a very literate, precise and useful guide to the high peaks of the history of experimental science. Crease's descriptions of the setup, conduct and conclusions of experiments which used shadows to measure the size of the earth, the Tower of Pisa to measure the Earth's attraction, a pendulum to measure its rotation and the gravitational attraction of known objects to measure the density of the Earth are lucid and breathtaking. His short biographies of the men who conceived of these trials of Nature give the flavour of the obsessivness it seems to take to be a great experimenter.
Crease's quest for the connection between the experiments and a sense of beauty remains impressionistic; which is, I suspect, as it should be.
The foreign ministers of Iraq's six neighbors condemned attacks by resistance fighters against civilians and said Sunday that they would secure their borders amid U.S. allegations that foreign militants have been behind a wave of violence in postwar Iraq.There seems to be pretty good evidence that much of the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq is coming via Syria,(and here) out of Saudi(and here) and, in the South East, Iran. It is unlikely that these often armed men are moving without the tacit approval and asistance of the security services of those nations. It would be lovely if that flow stopped. But it won't because everyone of the regimes meeting in Damascus is profoundly threatened by the prospect of a successful, democratic Arab nation. shortsightedly they unofficially seem to think it is a better bet to kill Americans a couple at a time in the hopes the Americans will give up - fat chance - rather than taking a look at what they could do at home to prepare for the sea change which is about to engulf the Middle East.
After a two-day meeting in Damascus, the Syrian capital, the ministers issued a statement saying they "condemn the terrorist bombings that target civilians, humanitarian and religious institutions, embassies and international organizations working in Iraq."
Why Things Break
Understanding the World by the Way it Comes Apart
By Mark E. Eberhart.
Harmony Books hc 256 pp $36.00
Mark Eberhart was an awesome little boy. For fun he used to take his marbles, heat them to 250 degrees and then drop them in ice water. The ones which didn't simply shatter on impact had what author Eberhart refers to as "esthetically pleasing" internal fractures. Little boy Mark no doubt thought they were way cool. Only one problem, the marbles would shatter on impact as the internal cracks ran to the surface.
A few years later the Corning Company introduced Corelle breakproof dishes. "As soon as I learned of these dishes, I had to have one." Eberhart found some at a price he could afford and set about trying to break them. He used the dinner plate as a Frisbee and began skipping it down the street. It didn't break until it hit a concrete curb edge on.
Eberhart was hooked and he wanted to know why things broke and why they didn't. It was a journey which took him to MIT's Materials Science department. Materials Science is something of an orphan of a discipline: some days it looks like engineering, others like chemistry, still others like the further reaches of quantum mechanics, and some days it looks like magic.
Why Things Break is the best sort of book written by a scientist. While it is packed with useful scientific information, it also has striking everyday examples. Just about everyone has bent a piece of copper pipe. Most of us have noticed that the pipe becomes harder and harder to bend the more times it is bent; but virtually none of knows why. The answer to the question of "work hardening" lies at the atomic level and is intimately wrapped up in the inability of the atomic dislocations created by the bending to cross what are known as grain boundaries. As the dislocations pile up it becomes harder and harder to bend the metal.
Eberhart takes the time to make his examples clear. More importantly, his sheer enthusiasm for untangling why things break carries his readers along. It turns out that Corelle dinnerware is a glass laminate which takes advantage of the fact that glass will only break when it is in tension. From the dinner plate Frisbee through making tempered glass, with excursions into Pyrex and bending glass in Bunsen burners, Eberhart holds his audience as he explores the very practical world of materials science. A page turner of a science book.