Sunday, October 30, 2005

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design - The Larger Story

After another lengthy absence, I have decided to start writing again. This time, however, the posts will include a radically different structure. I've concluded that embedding sentences into paragraphs (like I'm doing right now) obfuscates their meaning, so in a bid to alter that course, I will now write single-sentence points (sometimes I'll have more than one sentence though) to be designated by roman or Arabic numerals. The main points may be appended by letters that indicate new thoughts on the same line of reasoning. The "dolce stil nuovo" ("sweet new style," harking back to Dante's days) if you will, is called 'derivative continuation,' whereby successive points will be derived from preceding ones. I am not going to use this mode for all articles here; I am practicing with it for other reasons.

Today's topic is a hell raiser, at least in America. I should warn people now that this post will focus more on the underlying ideological and philosophical issues surrounding this debate rather than the tenets of the two respective positions.

I. Intelligent Design argues that the supposed complexity of biological life on planet Earth could not have resulted through naturalistic mechanisms alone.

II. The theory of evolution argues that all organisms on planet Earth have a common ancestor that was created through materialistic mechanisms.

III. Materialistic and/or naturalistic mechanisms occur strictly through matter-forces (fermionic-bosonic) interactions and obviously do not permit the existence of supernatural phenomena.

IV. Intelligent design is not a new proposition; philosophers spanning several millennia have made points exactly coinciding with or loosely related to the main points of contemporary intelligent design arguments.

V. Evolution originated in the 18th century, but was given impetus by Darwin's landmark 1859 work, On the Origin of Species.

VI. As a consequence of point I, intelligent design states that a creator, or a designer, had to first initiate the processes that eventually culminated in the alleged complexity of life on Earth.

VII. As a consequence of point II, evolution states that life on Earth was not arbitrarily imposed by any supernatural force.

VIII. Scientific theories must be materialistic; they must be constructed on the basis that the interwoven mechanisms have comprehensible sources whose behavior can be explicated and modeled in non-supernatural terms.
A. Intelligent design posits a source that it does not explicate and that, as of recent
times, has no intention of explicating.
B. As a consequence of point VI, VIII, VIII (A), Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.

IX. Scientific theories must be falsifiable; one ought to make some sort of observation that contradicts the theory.
A. Intelligent design posits a source whose existence no observation or experiment can confirm.
B. Recent scientific theories have posited entities whose existence has not been validated (theorized particles), but whose existence can be validated through the scientific method.
C. As a consequence of the points mentioned in VIII (B) as well as well as IX, IX (A), and IX (B), Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.

X. Scientific theories must offer predictions.
A. Intelligent Design offers no predictions.
B. As a consequence of aforementioned points (now too lengthy to list), Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.

XI. Intelligent designers have made statements decrying the dominance of materialism in scientific thought.

XII. Recent efforts to place Intelligent Design in the scientific curriculum are designed not just to offer an alternative viewpoint, but also to challenge a quasi-sacred scientific tradition of materialism.


That is all.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Quick Respite

Taking a bit of a break from blogging (as you can tell by my recent inactivity).....will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The News

I extend my sincere sympathies to the people of Britain. What happened was obviously tragic and serves to remind us ever more about the need to defeat or severely impair terrorism, since ultimate defeat may prove elusive.

On a lighter note, the funniest headline yesterday:

"Gaz de France shares suspended after 20% rise"

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Shares in Gaz de France were suspended almost immediately after opening in Paris as they rose sharply beyond the daily allowable limit. ( www.ft.com )
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Haha that's so weird; I've never heard of that happening before.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Casa Dolce Casa

I'm back home after three days at UVA's Summer Orientation. The actual events occurred over two days, Wednesday and Thursday, but my sister and I went there on Tuesday. It was all relatively boring and I skipped the vast majority of scheduled activities, opting for the company of my sister and her friends (the lesser of two evils basically...hehe). Deciding the schedule was the most important part and that I did with immense satisfaction; I got all of my first choice classes. Here's how the first semester schedule looks like (I think this will be final):

Concepts of Physics 101 - 1100:1150 - M W F

Astronomy 121 - 1400:1515 - M W

History of European Literature 201 - 1230:1345 - T R

Revolutionary France 338 - 1400:1450 - T R

Modernity and History 508 - 1300:1530 - F


It may seem fairly difficult but I'm pretty sure I can handle it....and if I can't, I have plenty of time to change things around.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Albanian Elections

It's not fully over, but it's becoming more and more clear that the Democratic Party has won the majority of the 100 zones up for the taking. However, I don't think they'll have a majority in Parliament to elect a Prime Minister from their party (the Albanian parliament has 140 members, the other 40 designated by the percentage of votes their respective parties received), but it still can't be said with high certainty. But this definitely sucks hard; eight years of great rule brought to an end (at this point, seemingly)....it's that great circle of democratic life again.....I still wana reiterate though: Albanian elections are known for being so controversial and fractious that the real results may not be known for a while and one or more of the parties may be complaining and contesting the numbers for far longer anyway.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sunday Sunday....

Nothing happens on Sunday; I think people took that Genesis shit a little too seriously. Exaggerating, of course, because something did happen today: Albanian parliamentary elections! As of now, it's looking like the Socialist Party will once again win, although it's been very close. The Socialists have been ruling Albania for over seven years now and they've done a fairly decent job, so I definitely think they deserve more time as the leading party (contrast that with Republicans here, which so far have largely sucked monkey balls). I'll update the news on this tomorrow....hopefully they'll have a winner then without anyone bitching too much (a common theme in the callow nature of Albanian politics).

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Natalee Holloway

I'm not writing this because I'm somehow deeply concerned about the outcome of this case. Naturally, I hope she's found safe and alive, or that whatever the truth is her family can uncover it since it would provide much needed closure. Rather, I'm writing to complain about the overwhelming media coverage this case has received. Frankly, it's undeserved. Coverage of these types of stories has grown more and more common in recent years, among some news casts even replacing traditional and germane information about the world. In many influential American news circles, it appears this case has received more attention than the G8 summit which President Bush will be attending. It would be nice if the media simply dropped this case already; yea it's sad, and yeah it's important for the family, and yes it's a tragedy, and I could continue downplaying this for a long time. I mean, there are so many cases like this every year, so it's a tad odd this one has received such great amounts of attention. Get back to real stories.....those that involve geopolitical or geostrategic occurrences would help.

Happy Independence Day!

Oh man it's going to be such a great day; all the fireworks and the cheery crowds will remind me why it's so great to live in America. July 2nd is truly a historic day. Hmm....wait; something seems odd here. I think I'm forgetting something. OH DAMN! Independence Day is July 4th! Or is it? Wait a minute, when is Independence Day?

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``Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.'' *
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Those are the legendary words that made the American colonies the United States of America. It was the resolution introduced by Richard Henry Lee and John Adams that declared America independent. On the 2nd of July in 1776, all 12 colonies adopted that very precise resolution. John Adams was ecstatic and wrote to his wife Abigail the following day:

"The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more." *

On July 4th, a revised version of the Declaration of Independence was passed by the delegates at Philadelphia. Although an important event, they all considered July 2nd the birthday of the nation.

Amazingly, amdist all the chaos of the American Revolution, the date was forgotten once the anniversary came. Realizing it was too late, the Founders started to celebrate the day on July 4th instead; eventually, it caught on. Today, while millions of Americans will celebrate on July 4th, I am popping the champagne open (just kidding, I don't drink)!

* http://www.thedeclarationofindependence.org/

Terrific News Sites

There are many places for information in our modern world, the internet easily being the biggest. And with all that's going on, it's important to stay well-informed. I consider the following news sites to cover some of the most important global issues in a very nice manner:

www.ft.com - The Financial Times (British)

www.economist.com - The Economist (British)

www.iht.com - International Herald Tribune (French)

www.globalsecurity.org - Global Security (American)

Those are the four main sites which I visit practically every day to stay in tune with the larger world around me. I recommend them highly; they are all fairly unbaised ("fairly" is key, as there have been accusations, if you know what I mean) and their analysis is logical. Check them out!

Friday, July 01, 2005

A Laconic History of Abortion

This has been a huge political and moral issue in the United States over the past few decades. American conservatives have rallied to fight what they term 'homicide' or 'murder' and American liberals have equally united to protect what they see as a matter of choice. As is common in such heated debates, it is extremely difficult for either side to appreciate the arguments of the other, and so civilized conversations are often replaced by sound bites or simply irate commentary (and various combinations in between). It has left some, like me, wishing to escape this quasi-miasmic situation and go to another realm where some form of sanity can be restored. Well today, that's exactly what we're going to do! This article will focus on the history of abortion before it was such a whirlwind political force, before Roe v. Wade; basically, before all the hoopla. Enjoy!

Let's first clarify that throughout human history the morality of abortion has never been debated to the amazing degree that it has been in contemporary times. Not only that, those types of debates have been rare. The attitude of Ancient cultures towards abortion at the early stages of the development of fetuses can be roughly described as permissive. Old Hindu scriptures allowed abortion until the fifth month, but the Pythagoreans of Greece did seem to stick out somewhat as they believed that the soul does not enter the body until conception. It is a bit more difficult to pinpoint the beliefs of Jewish cultures at these times, but there are indications that many Jews believed that not only was a fetus not a living being, but that a living being materialized about 30 days after birth! Christians in the early moments of their religion's development weren't warm to the idea of abortion, but, unlike today, they did not consider abortion a sin until something called "ensoulement" (when a fetus becomes a person), which occurred around 40 days after conception for a boy and 90 days after conception for a girl. An important force in shaping the views of early Christianity towards abortion was St. Augustine, who argued that only aborting a fully formed fetus was murder (when this occurred was subject to debate; it was thought somewhere around 40 to 80 days). In the sixth century, Byzantine Emperor Justinian settled the matter at 40 days. Rome instituted anti-abortion laws around the year 200, but evidence suggests these were politically and not ethically motivated. In Ancient times, women had abortions in various ways: some would use sharp sticks, others herbs or special exercises, and in Egypt they even used crocodile dung.

This brings us to the Middle Ages, and here views became slightly more diverse. In 1140, the monk John Gratian completed the "Harmony of Contradictory Laws," an opus that became the prime compilation of canonical law accepted by the church (just 14 years before the Great Schism, which permanently and officially split the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths). This work was important because it assented with the ancients on abortion and concluded it was not homicide. Continuing on this theme, English common law did not punish abortion before fetus movement. The legendary theologian St. Thomas Aquinas, however, broke with tradition and theorized that abortion was a crime against nature and a sin against marriage. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V made Aquinas's views official church policy. However, just three years later, Pope Gregory XIV somewhat reversed this policy by making punishment on abortion before 17 weeks subject to local and regional laws, which varied significantly (indeed, they may have been inextant or impertinent in many locations).

With time, Catholic sentiments towards abortion intensified towards the bitter end of the scale. In 1869, Pope Pius IX banned abortion under all circumstances and required excommunication for anyone who had an abortion. Eventually, Western obsession with laws and regulations invaded this once "alegal" sphere. In 1920, Lenin made all abortions in the Soviet Union legal and 15 years later Iceland became the first Western nation to legalize some limited forms of abortion. Almost mirroring the near-erratic Catholic policy towards the issue, Stalin reversed Lenin's decision in 1936 to bolster population growth. Over the next few decades, abortion became thrust at ever-increasing rates into the public arena, and it eventually attained legal acceptance in many nations. Britain legalized abortion in 1967, Canada in 1969, the United States in 1973, France in 1975, West Germany in 1976, New Zealand in 1977, Italy in 1978, and Holland in 1980. These actions finally proved enough to earn the ire of some, the admiration of others, and all possible emotions in between. An issue that had largely been a tiny undercurrent of national policy throughout human history suddenly found massive publicity once it was touched by law. Almost immediately, many people began to call the practice names that would've wildly confused past humans.

So why is abortion so polemical? The answer is complex, and everyone involved has their own answers and reasons. It is certain, however, that for now abortion still remains a huge driving force in the political arena here in the States, especially since today moderate Justice Sandra O'Connor retired and must be replaced. It will be interesting to see how that plays out....

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Great News

Spain legalized gay marriage today, becoming the third nation in the world to do so after Belgium and Holland. Canada is expected to soon be the fourth. Read here.

Napoleon Through Art

Those that have known me for a fair amount of time are well aware of my infatuation with Napoleon Bonaparte. I have been a huge fan of the erstwhile French Emperor for about four and a half years; it all began during middle school when the whims of my mind took to history instead of science, which I had previously been deeply passionate about (I still am, but to a lesser extent than topics like history or philosophy). Military history particularly caught my interests, and, of course, any student of military history must have some knowledge of the man many regard to be the greatest commander of all time. Since then, while I have studied a vast array of topics on military history throughout the entire human journey, I have concentrated about (at least) half of my time studying Napoleonic warfare. In the process of learning about Napoleon's campaigns and his shrewd tactical and strategic mind, I have also learned about Napoleon the man and Napoleon the statesman. Essentially, I have acquired a deep knowledge on many aspects of his life and the times in which he lived. Why Napoleon? Why have I devoted so much of my time to a guy that's been dead for around 184 years? I'm not really sure actually, just as many of us aren't exactly sure about why we or others do certain things. His wars piqued my interests initially, and then, as I found out more and more about the long list of accomplishments he had to his name, I found what could be called a hero. Napoleon's influence is truly difficult to overstate (although, believe me, it can be done): he is one of the greatest military commanders of all time (this is being diplomatic, since I would rank him as #1), he instituted a Civil Code which has formed the basis of national law for over 70 countries (the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825 was modeled after this one, and although it has since gone through many revisions, the basic precepts remain), and he even did things which compared to aforementioned and other accomplishments would seem paltry, but which we nonetheless feel the influence of and cherish everyday, one being the idea of placing odd-numbered and even-numbered buildings on different sides of streets, a materialization which we see every day we drive. A serious list of his accomplishments and failures is beyond the scope of this post, so let that be it for now (undoubtedly, I will write more on him later).

Napoleon was also a great propagandist. He was very effective at making as good a publicity come out of his triumphs as possible. One way in which he did this was through heavily romanticized and idealized portraits and war paintings, many of which he personally ordered and supervised (for example, he would tell the painter the size of the frame he wanted, where the characters should go, how the lighting should be worked, or maybe even what colors the horses would be). I am an avid fan of the Romantic Era, partly because Napoleon did so much for it and partly because I simply love the poetry, the Beethoven, and all the literature that came out of that spectacular period. I also particularly love the paintings, and, even more particularly, Napoleonic paintings. Today, I will share with you some of my favorites and the stories behind them.

(source: http://www.artcyclopedia.com/images/Meissonier.jpg )

Take a good look at this painting: what does it remind you of? If you said anything to do with Russia, congratulations! You are wrong. Done by Ernest Meissonier, this picture features Napoleon at a time when Europe's tidal forces are ebbing against him. It is winter in 1814, and here Napoleon leads a column of his marshals flanked by the beleaguered French army fighting to save its homeland from around 400,000 Allied troops. The disaster in Russia two years ago and the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 have left Napoleon with around 75,000 soldiers of far poorer quality when compared to past armies he has commanded. The situation is bleak: Wellington invades from the South and the main Allied thrust comes through Eastern France. Although Napoleon's commanding in this campaign epitomizes his genius, especially during February and the Six Days Campaign, where he inflicts 20,000 casualties on the Prussian army led by Blucher through a series of brilliantly coordinated battles, the odds are too heavy and eventually France loses. Allied forces enter Paris on March 31st and Napoleon's commanders refuse to continue fighting, leading to his abdication at Fontainebleu on April 6th. He is taken to the island of Elba and made Governor, although the European powers allow him to retain the title of 'Emperor.' He escapes in 1815, forces Louis XVIII to flee, and becomes Emperor once more. However, the Congress of Vienna labels him an 'outlaw' and mobilizes to end his rule once and forever. Napoleon is eventually defeated at the famous Battle of Waterloo by a Prussian and Anglo-Dutch army and then surrenders himself to the British, who take him to a remote island in the South Atlantic called St. Helena. Why, being a huge fan of Napoleon, would I consider this one of my favorite paintings of the man? Well, believe it or not, it is good to share the bad and the good, and although this painting here may not show it very well because it's small, Napoleon's grim face almost perfectly captures the mood he was probably in during these ignominious times. This painting is a way to connect with him during those hard moments; just look at his eyes, they will tell the story....

(source: http://aigleconquerant.free.fr/galerie/napberlin.jpg )

Full of pomp and resplendence, the victorious French army enters Berlin headed by the 'Little Corsican' himself. This picture takes place in 1806 following the colossal drubbing the 'Grande Armee' has given a Prussian army which many observers throughout Europe considered to be the best on the continent. Napoleon defeats one of the the Prussian armies at Jena and one of his Marshals, Davout, defeats the much larger Prussian force at Auerstadt. After these two confrontations, which occurred on the same day, French cavalry led by the ever flamboyant Murat pursue the Prussians for miles on end. When it's all said and done, practically all units of the theoretically great Prussian military machine have either been killed or captured. It is one of the worst military defeats in German history, and Prussia will remember the long lines of surrendered soldiers for a long time to come, partially setting up the stage for a half-century of bitter Franco-German rivalry that required two world wars to stabilize.

(source: http://cgfa.sunsite.dk/g/gros1.jpg )

This one has to rank as one of the greatest military paintings of all time. Antoine-Jean Gros brilliantly portrays the then General of Italy at the Bridge of Arcole, where Napoleon bravely leads the troops across and captures the Austrians positions defending the town. That's how the story goes; in reality, only Massena crossed the Bridge at Arcole, Napoleon merely watching from the other bank and giving orders (but nonetheless he was very involved in directing the battle). This is part of the great propaganda I mentioned earlier; Napoleon takes this moment and realizes it could mean great things for perceptions, so he orders a fabulous fabrication that has captured our imaginations ever since. He did, however, cross one bridge in a charge during the First Italian Campaign (1796-1797): that occurred at Lodi, a place where it is said Napoleon gained immense confidence following his victory, and an event of which he later wrote (heavily paraphrased), "For once I never felt like just a general, but like a force controlling the hopes of people, being the object of their dreams, and the motto of their desires." This campaign in Italy is his first in independent command and it is here that he first displays his genius en masse and establishes the two central tenets of his war-making (even though he always claimed there was nothing theoretical about war or that he didn't come into fights with pre-determined strategies): The Central Strategic Position, whereby he would use the dependable French skirmishers to drive two Allied armies apart, and then, were this to prove successful, he would follow up with "Les Manouvres sur Les Derriers," or flanking motions that turned and destroyed the weakened and disoriented enemy armies. Although this may have seemed predictable (indeed, many historians have accused Napoleon of this), he employed it with such ingenuity and dynamism in every campaign that his enemies might as well have thought he was concocting something new.

(source: http://www.millikin.edu/history/202/images/austerlitzbattle.jpg )

This legendary painting portrays Napoleon at the greatest victory of his career: the Battle of Austerlitz (1805). Francois Gerard does a great job at revealing a monolothic and herculean Napoleon basking in the glory of victory not with jubilation and nonsensical celebration, but with the composure and posture worthy of a historically great conqueror. The painting shows the moment when General Rapp (a cavalry commander) brings to Napoleon the captured Austrian standards. At this time, battalion flags that each unit carried into battle were considered tremendously important and presitigous, so it's easy to imagine, with the French having captured so many Austrian flags, how lavish this moment was. Many historians consider the Battle of Austerlitz to be the most militarily decisive battle of the Napoleonic Era (1799-1815), even though Waterloo overshadows it in terms of political worth. A very brief account of the battle: Napoleon dupes the combined Russo-Austrian army of approximately 90,000 troops (numbers on the Allied side have been somewhat controversial lately, but, so as to keep it simple, I will show the figure of 90,000 because it is still the most widely accepted) into attacking his supposedly weak right flank. The Allies don't know that Napoleon has reinforcements coming. Napoleon, meanwhile, launches his main plan, which takes into account the weakness of the Allied center after they have thrown so many forces towards his right, of having 17,000 French troops attack the center. After very heavy fighting, the French break through and eventually the Allied army disintegrates. French casualties are roughly 9,000 while the Allies have lost about 29,000. The spectacular victory forces Austria to sign the Treaty of Pressburg and makes them pay war indemnities to France, cede land to Napoleon's German allies and France herself, and it pretty much serves to abolish the centuries-old Holy Roman Empire. The Emperor of Austria, known as Francis II under the title of Holy Roman Emperor, now simply becomes Francis I. As I did with Waterloo about 12 days ago, I will give a detailed description of this magnificent battle in its 200-year anniversary, which is this December 2nd.

(source: http://www.milartgl.com/Images_b/b_battle_of_friedland.jpg )

A confident Napoleon leads the preparations for what would become the most important battle in the 1807 campaign in Poland: Friedland. Friedland was one of those situational battles; the two armies didn't set up shop in an organized manner like at Austerlitz, but rather developed after Russian General Bennigsen found that Marshal Lannes and his corp were isolated at the town of Friedland, opposite the River Alle. Bennigsen attacked, and from there the scattered French army coalesced and rushed in to seal the deal. The victory led to the Treaty of Tilsit in July, which formalized a peace between France and Russia and brought stability to the European continent after two years of bloodshed. Again, the lighting and the central position of Napoleon are evident in this majestic Horace Vernet piece.

(source: http://uv.es/entresiglos/oleza/image/napoleon.jpg )

With very little doubt, this surely must be the greatest war painting of all time. It certainly is the most recognized. Painted by the indomitable Jacques-Louis David, a regal-looking, red-cloaked, Revolutionary-dressed Napoleon rides a Grey Arab (these were his favorite because of their calmness and stability; in fact, it's easy to notice throughout these paintings that he rides the same type of horse) while crossing the Great St. Bernard's Pass en route to Northern Italy and intending to destroy an Austrian army which has occupied it. The familiar motif of propaganda becomes evident here again, since in reality Napoleon crosses the Alps with a sure-footed mule and wears a fairly typical greatcoat. But, of course, that doesn't make for something to remember, so pointing to the sky in search of Divine Providence or heralding some garganuan achievement while wearing the emblematic "tricouleur" certainly adds appeal. Also, even though it's not visible in this version of the painting, at the lower left of the complete picture are the names "Napoleon" and "Hannibal," both engraved into the rocks of the mountain. Hannibal had led the last army that crossed the Italian Alps; that happened about 2,000 years before Napoleon. This war against Austria marks Napoleon's third major campaign in independent command. He ends up heavily defeating the Austrian army under General Melas at the Battle of Marengo on June 14, 1800, even though in the early stages he came very close to losing. This victory once again spells doom for Austria in Northern Italy and following the Battle of Hohenlinden (December 3, 1800) in Germany, the Austrians sign the Peace of Luneville in 1801, leaving Britain as the only European nation to remain at war with France (they sign the Treaty of Amiens the following year, however, and for the first time in ten years all of Europe is at peace). Napoleon had overthrown the Directory with the aid of loyal troops and his brother Lucien in November of 1799 and had then proceeded to make himself First Consul under the Constitution created in December (there were a total of three consuls under these new provisions). He thus sets himself up as the sole ruler of France, and in five years he becomes the absolute ruler of France, this time going by "L'Empereur."

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Reaction to the Speech

Let me first congratulate Bush on a fairly nice speech. Although naturally all sides will claim this and that, I believe his speech today will, at the very least, be one factor that temporarily recuperates America's will to continue the struggle. The speech was prompted by a string of polls which revealed public perceptions toward the President and the conflict in Iraq had gone somewhat badly recently. Regardless, the President and other White House officials maintained that America would continue the struggle and never relent until the mission in Iraq was accomplished. Pre-speech 'hysteria' (if it can be called that) circled mostly around the adverse poll numbers the Administration has had to suffer through. Perhaps those numbers are deserved; after all, what is the public to make out of an incessant stream of suicide bombs and torn limbs? Iraq is not stable, and we know this because we live in a peaceful environment which doesn't include RPGs and car bombs. As long as Iraq is not stable, this Administration will be punished for it. The President gave the speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina amidst special operations forces and paratroopers, environs he should've been familiar and comfortable with (military audiences are usually his favorite). Many had expected a quasi-lengthy speech, but Bush kept to tradition and went no longer than 30 minutes. He focused on themes that had been explored before and tried to explain them to the American people in familiar but non-effusive terms. He reiterated the need for the United States to remain in Iraq despite current problems and attempted to reassure the nation that the insurgency would be defeated. He never actually used the word 'insurgency,' instead referring to those men as 'terrorists' (which they are) because it would help form a link between what's occurring in Iraq and the general war on terror. In recent times, the necessity of establishing links between Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime has been a key talking point for this Administration. Precisely why remains a mystery when applying the rules of formal logic, but speculation points to required shifts in statements after years have produced no evidence of the WMDs which the war was largely based on. Independent report after independent report, however, states there was no link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The 9-11 Commission Report explicitly mentioned that there was no "collaborative relationship" between the two men and their respective organizations. Quite mysteriously (or maybe not, depending on one's views), several members of the Administration, most notably Vice President Cheney, have continued to bring up this apocryphal relationship (Cheney in particular has become famous for making statements regarding the conflict that can, at the very least, be termed 'controversial', and at the very most be categorized as embarrassing falsehoods). Despite the fact that Saddam Hussein had nothing or little to do with 9-11, Bush invoked that famous event once more in a speech regarding Iraq. Political and casual observers alike have easily noticed that 9-11 has transmogrified into a wild Bucephalus best utilized by whoever controls it best. At the moment, it seems President Bush and the Republicans have done a better job at controlling that political beast. References to 9-11 are rife throughout the current political atmosphere, and why shouldn't they be? They work, much of the time anyway. The President was simply playing upon this well-known fact, even if reality does not reflect his words. Bush also emphasized how Iraq had turned into the main ground for the war on terror, quoting Osama bin Laden, who said (paraphrased), "Iraq is the third world war," to prove his point. Bush seems to be correct here, but we still don't quite know the full implications of this scenario. Bush argued how it was necessary to maintain current efforts in Iraq for the expressed purpose of defeating terrorism, or some elements of global terrorism. Another important topic in the speech involved the training of Iraqi soldiers and police. As of this moment, there are only a handful of Iraqi battalions capable of conducting anti-insurgent operations in coordination with Allied forces; over 100 are in training but not yet ready. Bush praised the work already accomplished and accentuated the need for further expansion of Iraqi military and police forces. One of the particular points he underscored was the collective interest of the global community in an outcome favorable to the current Iraqi government. Bush mentioned the recent donors conference in Belgium (where about 80 nations convened to discuss the reconstruction of Iraq) and comments by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder (made at the White House two days ago) that spoke of the urgency for a victory in Iraq. In another sense, however, I can't help but wonder if some governments which opposed the war do not harbor some intrinsic but mild sentiments of content now that America and Britain are struggling. They wouldn't do this because they are evil or anything, but merely because they were so convinced of the correctness in their position (much like the US was). Geostrategically, American failure in Iraq (and by 'failure' I mean a premature withdrawal that leads to pandemonium within the Iraqi sociopolitical realm and maybe even brings the government down) would not have large consequences in the short term, despite Administration statements to the contrary (those statements are borne by the need to remind people of how fragile the situation is and that, now more than ever, the very solidarity that's lacking is most needed). A huge sub theme regarding this entire debate has concerned the number of troops required to pacify Iraq. Bush averred an already well-known position when he claimed commanders on the ground had not requested more troops. However, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden responded in a post-speech interview that generals in Iraq actually did desire more troops. This was quite simply puzzling and must be ironed out somehow; here we have the President claiming the commanders don't want or need more troops, and then a Senator comes out and says they do. Let me be clear and mention that two positions so diametrically aligned are not inspired by politics alone; one of these two men simply has their facts wrong. The President's position on the issue does appear to be quite plausible; additional troops to Iraq would either not resolve the problem or would be secondary to the bigger goal of more effective intelligence. In confrontations between traditional nation-state armies, large numbers would be quite useful and desirable (the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 is one of the best examples of the decisiveness of numbers), but in an unusual war like this numbers would do little. Just sealing off all of Iraq's borders would require a couple of hundred thousand more troops than present American levels, and we're all aware such numbers are nigh impossible to provide because of other strategic commitments. Bush also vehemently eliminated the possibility for the establishment of a timetable, an aspect to the war which he views as dangerous and ill-advised. Bush proclaimed that a timetable would only give incentive to the terrorists since they need not do more than simply wait for the Americans to jettison themselves out of there and then attack the supposedly weak government. He believes any facet of American withdrawal should be based on events on the ground and not on what he views as strict deadlines. His critics charge that a timetable would actually prove useful in intimidating the terrorists because it would provide an outline for things to happen in Iraq which those very same terrorists have been fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent. Unfortunately, there don't appear to be many historical precedents for such a move; counter-insurgency operations have relied virtually strictly on completion of operations and frankly the reasons being given for a timetable are a bit laughable and overly hopeful. It is far more likely that, as Bush has mentioned, entrenching deadlines into the mission will only encourage the terrorists, not frighten them. Furthermore, in many ways this mission has had PLENTY of deadlines, from the handover to the Iraqis in June last year, to the elections in January, and to the Constitution to be completed in just a few months. If that's not a timetable for accomplishing certain tasks, what is? I'm inclined to believe this timetable business has more to do with bringing the troops back home then reconstructing Iraq. That was an overview of the main points Bush discussed; let's now focus on how effective this speech was and any possible political effects it may have.

As I said earlier, I congratulate Bush on a fairly nice speech. He did what he had to do without embellishing too much, trying to portray a realistic picture of the situation that differed somewhat sharply with previous addresses. Normal Bush speeches on the topic include vast arrays of comments on, essentially, how well we're doing in Iraq. This one was more cautious because it had to be; Bush was no longer speaking to groups strongly favoring him (the military personnel at the fort were not the only recipients of his address) but rather to a nation that has grown wearier of a conflict with 15,000 American casualties and seemingly no end in sight. He also did what he's very good at doing: utilizing 9-11 to explain the world's problems. Such moves by the President may be politically deceptive, but fortunately for him the public doesn't notice much that there was no connection between Saddam and 9-11 (or maybe they don't care, which would be even worse) or that whenever something seems to go wrong they are reminded of 9-11 for the explicit purpose of warming their hears to certain ventures. The speech was not particularly effusive, and I'm not certain as to whether that's bad or good. A passionate speech may have riled up several skeptical segments of the populace or it could've simply earned an unending chain of criticism for feigned care and attempts at scoring politically. He made a few verbal gaffes but those can be excused I suppose; we all know Bush is not a very good speaker. From Bush's perspective, one of the most important things this speech can accomplish is turn the tide of negative public opinion. A poll of 300 people was taken before and after the speech to have an early window in what the public may be thinking (50% of those individuals identified themselves as Republicans and the other 50 were virtually split in half as Democrats and Independents). After the speech, 46% of those polled felt that the President did a great job in warming the public to the need to continue the fight. While this number may be positive in light of other numbers regarding Iraq (39% supporting the war according to a recent poll), it is lower when compared to the favorability ratings Bush received after other high-profile speeches. What does this mean? We don't really know yet; this poll involved only 300 people and hence cannot be that conclusive about the general population (the reason why pollsters normally have more than 1,000 people is to reduce the margin of error), but what struck me as interesting was the low value of the numbers despite the group having more Republicans than either Democrats or Independents. Despite that, more conclusive polls will have to be performed to draw a clear picture of what the American public thought of the speech. Noted political analyst, Harvard professor, and former White House Advisor David Gergen mentioned that the speech could buy Bush a certain time of relief but that afterwards results on the ground would be needed to convince the public to remain in Iraq. This is a reasonable view and I happen to share certain aspects of it. However, although I agree that America will give Bush more time, it won't be because of the speech at all, but rather because of the urgency of the mission. In the grand scheme of things, the speech will not be that effective in either marshalling support for the war or weakening it; that will simply depend on what occurs in Iraq. Americans will realize the need to remain in Iraq for a while longer because they believe it's a necessity or a sacrifice which must be undertaken for the good of the country. How long such a stance persists will have to be seen, but this too depends on events on the ground. I would have to say Bush needs to make these sorts of addresses a tradition. The past six months have not gone well for him because, according to some, he has spent too much time on Social Security and domestic issues and not enough on Iraq. Analysts say this course has cost him dearly in the polls with Iraq and even with Social Security, gaging by the number of people who aren't enthusiastic with his personal accounts plan. Bush needs to resume and continue this dialogue if he is to have a reasonable chance of keeping his numbers in the polls up. Unfortunately for him, he's not too keen on giving speeches (Bush's Administration has been notoriously viewed as secretive, and the Commander in Chief himself is partly responsible for that), but that's going to have to change. More televised speeches on the issue can only help him by showing the American people that he's investing time, blood, and sweat. Bush realizes this is a war America must win. He has not shown that, however. Yesterday was (hopefully) a starting step.

Weird...

Today, June 28, 2005, 167 international ships, both from the civil sector and the military, are gathering in Porstmouth, England to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.....uno problemo (well, kind of): the battle was fought on October 21st....so when I got up today and heard all this news about what appeared to be a lavish naval parade I was a little confused...I still don't know why they're doing the 'reenactment' today (it's more of a celebration of Trafalgar; organizers won't hype the battle's actual events too much because they don't want to conflagrate national sentiments....after all, France and Spain lost pretty damn badly).....if I had to give an educated guess, I'd say it's because of weather problems in the English Channel during Autumn. That sounds like the plausible explanation, but I still don't concretely know and I'm trying to find out. If anyone out there who reads this knows why they're doing it today, don't hesitate to inform me.....

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Today....

Me and my sis had a dual graduation party today.....it was all-right.

Not much happened today (it is, after all, a Sunday)...or maybe it did but I'm too tired to report on it....I'm not CNN people; go look up the news yourself haha........

Saturday, June 25, 2005

In the News....

The overly conservative mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, won Iran's election....

19 Iraqis and six US military personnel have been killed in Iraq since Friday....

A donors conference in Brussels regarding Iraq's future appears to be a success....

and Senate panel approves Bush's space plan....

The Bush Presidency (Part Two)

Just like any other Administration, whether this one has been effective or not depends on who is asked. One can most definitely claim this has been a forceful and committed Administration. One aspect of President Bush which intrigued many and angered others was his ability to focus on a topic and, through heavy repetition, ram the point home to some sort of legislative or material victory. This occurred with many important issues, such as Iraq or the tax cuts. It seemed this was a unique gift of Bush's, and even though repetition is a loose rule in politics, he seemed to be able to do it better than anyone else. He has recently tried this tactic with Social Security, but all evidence suggests it has failed (in fact, a Congressman has said he has received the President's approval for a new plan on Social Security that doesn't include private accounts, which were a big part of previous Administration proposals), lending early anecdotal credence to assertions that presidential second terms are often unsuccessful. Another interesting side of his Presidency began to be witnessed after 9-11; suddenly, a President notorious for poor speaking and general incoherency seemed to have "found his voice." The President apparently gained a new moral urgency to defend America and, just as importantly, spread freedom and democracy around the world. This last point has been extremely polemical. Bush has openly outlined his desire to see the Middle East and many other nations around the world that are currently ruled by dictatorial, theocratic, or just generally oppressive regimes transform into open and free democracies. I strongly support his vision here; in a sense, I must, because I am a liberal, and above all a liberal is one who wants liberty, which is essentially what Bush wants to give these people as well (it gets more complicated than this, but let's leave it there for now). That curt analysis may have seemed naive, since US strategic considerations are and have been far more important to this Administration and preceding ones than ideals (I mean, who in the US government was thinking about liberty when the Indians were wiped out in decades of conflict? Or who was thinking about liberty during Reagan and times when we supplied the 'Butcher of Baghdad' with chemical weapons? Or gave Osama's mujahedin $3 billion and stinger missiles in the '80s so they could fight the Soviets? Or even now when we're espousing democracy but supporting an autocrat in Pakistan?) or lofty standards. But certainly most geostrategic decisions are taken in light of what could benefit the nation, and it is most advantageous for the Bush Administration to prop up democracy in the Middle East, the site of massive oil reserves to which America is heavily dependent, rather than in regions that don't seem to hold incentives for American supervision. This is spectacularly hypocritical, but, in my view, that doesn't matter at all. America is the world's superpower and the number of objectives it has to accomplish are numerous, complex, and sometimes confusing, so it is no secret that in pursuing those objectives it will make some mistakes in terms of stated policy versus executed policy. We shouldn't really frown on America for this; in a very real sense, it's difficult for a nation like America NOT to make these sorts of mistakes. Just look at other superpowers in the past: Rome began to allow more and more the settlement of barbarians inside its territories once it became clear their extrication would be difficult, France in the 16th century allied with the dreaded Ottoman Empire for strategic gains in Italy and again caused surprised in the mid-18th century when she allied with previous foe Austria to fight the Prussians in the Seven Years War, and Britain allied with France (these two nations had produced perhaps the greatest military rivalry in all of history) in the late 19th century to counter the growing threat of Germany, all cases which loosely reveal how particular superpowers have suspended articulated or traditional policies to accommodate new realities. To those ends, America is doing what has mostly always been done. What's most important is that America is actually advocating for freedom and democracy somewhere, and while not everyone in the world may be helped by this 'altruism,' some will indeed benefit (and have already benefited, most notably the Lebanese, where international pressure spearheaded by the US forced Syrian troops to pull back after years of occupation). One of the key questions surrounding the debate is what the new American policy means for the Middle East. Some nations have already revealed signs of tacit cooperation in terms of electoral reform, but much more work still has to be done. The Middle East must be instructed more in the area of women's rights, a field where it is horribly unprepared or behind (for example, it is puzzling to a Westerner why a woman wears a veil when the Koran instructs nothing on the act and when the veil was originally intended for the affluent and upper-class women of Islamic society). But the progress has been encouraging if at this stage only tentative. Many believe Bush's efforts in the Middle East are too hopeful and somewhat ignorant or naive since the doctrines being followed are not all that mindful of the sociopolitical nature of the region. They argue (partly) that America treats the people of the region as if they were like Americans and that such a move can only lead to failure. Again, these views may turn out to be correct. The chronic problem we've encountered in this analysis is that "we don't know yet." What transpires in the Middle East may also be a reflection of the amount of attention the US is willing to give to the region, which presently seems to indicate it will be less and less as the years go by due to the rise of China in the Far East. If America is willing to expend great amounts of political, military, and economic capital on the region, then events may turn out well after all ('well' relative to America). A new feature of Bush's new policies to combat terrorism has been pre-emption. This has conjured just as much controversy as the drive for spreading democracy. Although we mentioned this before, we are going to cover it again in more detail. Unlike the drive for democracy, this one appears to have colossal implications. Part of the difference lies in the fact that while not every democratic nation has the capabilities to spread its form of government to other regions, every democratic nation (and every nation period) does have the capability to use the doctrine of pre-emption in its foreign policy. President Bush's critics have used this simple point to lambaste the doctrine, arguing how many other nations (some not friendly to American interests, particularly Chinese designs on Taiwan) could get carried away in much the same manner as America supposedly did with Iraq, and hence spread pandemonium and chaos. One problem many have had with the policy is simply conceptual; many have had a hard time stomaching what appears to be a drastic departure from typical America foreign policy, known for, according to the critics, its defensive posture. Bush's supporters have commented that sort of defensive posture will not be sufficient to defeat the parlous nature of 21st century terrorism; America will simply have to be on the constant offensive if it is to have realistic chances of prevailing. Besides bringing to the table varying views on combating the global war on terror, pre-emption also raises some haunting specters for America's future: if this country is tied down in offensive ventures for prolonged periods of time, can it geostrategically survive the heavy involvements? Can it withstand the sizeable amounts of occasional spending bills for hotspots like Iraq or Afghanistan? Can it afford to increase its defense budget to sizes comparable to the GDP of some large nations? The answers to these questions are, again, unknown. But we can speculate. A key component to America's future strength will be the Administration in power; if there is a government which chooses not to follow Bush's terrorist strategy, then pre-emption and heavy American global involvement for the purpose of terrorism could collapse or wither away, allowing for the continuation of America's unquestioned hegemony. On the other hand (oversimplification is practically inevitable here, statements like "on the other hand" revealing a case of dialectics which I don't fully believe are there judging by the pluralistic formulation of foreign policy, but time restrictions force the simplified version of the story), future administrations could continue Bush's policies and plunge America into many localized conflicts for the name of fighting terrorism. This would be very dangerous. America may be worn down in many ways, but perhaps the two most important would be the loss of political will (a nascent manifestation in the Iraqi conflict) and the deterioration of military capabilities. These two factors more than any others caused the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, but I want to emphasize I'm not equating Rome then to America now. The enemies the two faced are different and the context of the worlds in which they live are completely different. But while I'm not equating them, I am showing a similarity. Overextension of (particularly) military forces (something that gave Rome a headache, seeing as how they had only 500,000 soldiers of inferior quality, at least when compared to previous Roman legions, to protect borders throughout Europe and the Middle East) worries many in the current Administration and other observers and experts. While palpably America is very strong, is it that strong? Can it do all these things and essentially hope to maintain parity with a quickly growing China 30, 40, or 50 years in the future? To be determined....mending relations with European allies will also be a key objective of future administrations. The Iraqi war tore through the very warm relations sewed after the 9-11 attacks. To most Europeans, there seemed to be little in terms of logic operating amidst the British and the Americans when they went to war. The rift has not been resolved to this day. Many nations in Europe (like France) feel vindicated in their decisions not to participate because of recurring problems with the insurgency. The other side of the Atlantic resents, almost in a child-like manner, the intransigence of many nations who they feel are indebted to America for previous affairs (World War I and II come to mind). I have personally seen this American resentment as something approaching insanity; in an interest-based geostrategic world, those nations are not entitled to do anything for you, whether you may like it or not. Present considerations supersede historical ties; after all, if we are to adopt the whining approach as some American conservatives have, where was America in the beginning of World War I in terms of helping a friend who was mostly responsible for its independence (France)? Or what about World War II? America did not enter the conflict until it was directly attacked itself; before Pearl Harbor, many Americas simply didn't want to be involved in Europe's wars. These kinds of charges and countercharges have resolved little; it is simply better for both sides to recognize they have differences and try to rebuild erstwhile strong relationships with those differences in mind. Despite recent events to the contrary, Europe can be a powerful ally to America. Conceivably, the Europeans will resolve the current and bitter disputes revolving around the budget or a formal constitution and will one day have a coherent foreign policy that could prove useful to America in upcoming dealings with China. Some American conservatives in the Administration are secretly giddy about recent European failures, but such sentiments are premature and wrong-headed; Europe is worth more to America strong than weak, especially, as I've said before, now that China's rise to the top seems all but inexorable. Energy independence has also been a big theme in Bush's Presidency; unfortunately, little concrete actions have been taken, partly because of political restrictions at home, and partly because of the same restrictions abroad. At least Congress is now seriously mulling the issue, but it remains to be seen what steps they can take to actually achieve something noticeable. Recent surges in oil prices (the price of oil went above $60 per barrel) have pushed the issue to the fore (or somewhere around there) of the legislative agenda. It is of vital concern to this country that it straighten this out, but I think ultimately not much will happen. To round out the foreign policy debate, we come to China, a nation that has already been mentioned a myriad of times in this analysis. Yes, that's how important China is. China has a population approaching 1.3 billion, the largest and quickly becoming one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world, a nominal GDP of $1.8 trillion (the sixth largest in the world, according to the IMF April 2005 report) and a GDP PPP of $8 trillion (the second largest in the world), and economic growth at about 9 or 10% annually, a startling rate for such a huge economy. Even more dangerously, we're not really sure about China's intentions (and for that matter, China's not sure about ours). Bush has labeled China a "strategic competitor," but the term is vague, and while some advocate friendly relations others view the rising Red Star as a menace. It's a difficult position for America to be in; it is the world's superpower and it certainly doesn't want to lose that status, but here it has a nation that it can't blatantly confront for obvious reasons. Presumably, China will simply outdo America in a peaceful manner, not an unprecedented event after what happened in the Cold War. That, however, wouldn't be palatable to the American public, if I may be refined and eschew using the phrase, "it would suck." However, it's a reality that will simply have to be faced. I don't believe America is strong enough to stay on par with China; there is simply too much of a discrepancy in potential borne about by population differences. Bush has chosen an ambiguous path with China and I suppose future Presidents will have to correctly define to the American people what the nation's relations to China should and will be. Domestically, I am less impressed with Bush. I believe he has made severe gaffes with taxes, both at the federal level and the elimination of the estate tax. Unfortunately, Bush's mistakes contributed greatly to turning a wide surplus under Clinton into a gaping deficit, the largest in American history. Future generations will have to square off with this as well, on top of the problems they'll have to iron out regarding Social Security.

Overall, I would judge the Bush Presidency to have been mildly successful (very mild). American economic growth has picked up over the years and America's geostrategic strength relative to other nations is more advanced now than ever before. However, part of this (in fact, most of this) is simply due to macrohistorical trends and has little to do with Bush's effectiveness. Also, Bush has mishandled the economy and left plenty of future foreign policy problems. Holistically, however, the nation under the Administration has done fairly well. It is not easy to rebound after a tragedy like 9-11 (even for America), but this government has done a particularly decent job. A big chunk of how history remembers Bush and his government will evidently come from the Iraqi conflict. If that goes awry and America must extricate itself shamefully, then Bush will probably not be remembered too warmly. If the opposite becomes true, however, Bush can take comfort in knowing that his legacy will be secure. Everyone may agree, though, that these past few years have been interesting to say the least and that we look forward to the future and its promises of better days.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Today...

Stocks all over the world tumble as price of oil breaks $60 a barrel.......

Runoff election in Iran heads for vote tallies.....

Italian judge orders the arrest of 13 CIA agents for illegally capturing a suspected terrorist....

and scientists discover large areas of pebble-sized rocks near the star TW Hydrae that they claim could lead to the birth of new planets.....

The Bush Presidency (Part One)

In the past few years, America and the world have undergone somewhat of a turbulent period, diplomatic language permitted. Yet through all the bad and the good, no one man has been as prominent during these times as George W. Bush, the 43rd President of America. He ascended to the office in a very controversial manner and has since withstood a terrifying attack upon his country, a vicious reelection bid, and everything in between. Analyzing the Bush Presidency is undoubtedly difficult, partly due to the complexities of the time and the dynamics of the man himself, even though appearances suggest a relatively simple person. I am no biographer, and this analysis will not focus on Bush’s life, but some aspects of his perceived personal character will palpably play a partial role in covering the events of the 21st century. The analysis will also suffer from the fact that Bush’s second term is not yet over, and so any clear highlights of his presidency are being done mindful of the past, not the future. The purpose of this is simple and threefold: recapitulate the events of the past four and a half years (to be done very briefly), analyze those events in the context of the historical zeitgeist, and contemplate the possible effects of current US geostrategic policy in upcoming decades (the first half of the 21st century). This topic would naturally need books to do it justice, but here we’ll attempt the feat in a few words. My political philosophy is generally liberal, and there may be some manifestations of bias in this paper, but mostly it will be kept in check. I am more interested in what’s correct rather than what would please my ears.

Bush ran a fairly heated campaign against Democratic candidate Al Gore and, despite the odds, won. But the victory, attributed to a 5-4 partisan vote in the Supreme Court, left a great deal of people embittered. The country was badly split, and it was hoped Bush would somehow mitigate this division once in office. In a fashion which would practically become this President’s trademark, Bush appointed whomever he wanted and generally did whatever he wanted. This comparably uncomprising nature (compared to other Presidents, that is) has earned admiration among some and disdain among others. The first few months of Bush’s Presidency were not particularly auspicious; the President experienced sinking poll numbers and apparently could do little to get out of the maelstrom. An economic slowdown that had begun under the Clinton Administration transformed into an official recession by March 2001, and no doubt this contributed to Bush’s unpopularity. Terrorism was seemingly not that high on the agenda, and no one had any idea how huge it would eventually become. Some Clinton Administration officials claimed they attempted to schedule meetings with their Bush counterparts in order to give warnings about possible terrorist plays, but they say they were largely ignored. Evidently, those from the Bush Administration deny the charges and claim all that could be done was to prevent what would become one of the most heinous attacks on American soil. In mid-morning on September 11, 2001, two passenger planes hijacked by 19 foreign terrorists crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center (WTC). 3,000 people died and the nation was stunned. In the immediate aftermath, the stock market suffered tremendously and the Bush Administration geared up for a diplomatic and military war they knew would last a long time. It was quickly discovered that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda (“The Base”) was behind the attacks, and Afghanistan became the natural place to prosecute the war, in light of the heavy concentration of Al-Qaeda bases and members or recruits. In early October, American warplanes began to attack Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and with help from the Northern Alliance, who controlled the Northeastern part of the country, had rooted the five-year rulers from power by December. An encouraging sign about Afghanistan was the amount of international participation; after the attacks, French newspaper Le Monde declared, “We are all American,” and people all over the world felt a deeper connection to America than they ever had before. The campaign in Afghanistan reflected these new bonds as many nations sent troops to help overthrow the Taliban and establish a democratic regime. The US and France were the only two nations that conducted bombing runs over Afghanistan (France sent a carrier fleet, the finest in Europe, to aid in bombing Al-Qaeda and Taliban positions), and their warm relations finally broke during the push for war with Iraq. Today, the majority of the military presence in Afghanistan falls under the umbrella of America’s allies, a striking sign that the world generally believed that particular conflict to be ‘righteous.’ Afghanistan has since struggled in many aspects, although positive signs are clearly visible. The nation now has a democratically-elected President (Hamid Karzai) and continues its rebuilding initiatives under international supervision. One recurring problem, however, has been increased poppy production which has made Afghanistan the originating source of 90% of the world’s heroin. Under the Taliban, drug production was mild, but after liberation it has skyrocketed and the international coalition may not be doing much to stop it because they are worried about potential political consequences (the poppies are seen as a means to occupy certain segments of Afghan society which could turn dangerous if incited). After 9-11, Bush proclaimed a global war on terror and threatened all nations who were willingly harboring terrorists that they were not safe. Under this loose pretext, the American government began to target Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime and in the process established the doctrine of pre-emption, a policy of eliminating a possible threat before its detrimental effects materialized. The policy worried many individuals who saw US action in preceding decades and centuries as contravening Bush’s new order. Meanwhile, on the economic front, the recession lasted six months (till September), but that good news was tossed aside after the attacks and the country underwent new woes. The airline industry was particularly hard hit, and the government even financed a $15 billion rescue package to give them breathing space. The global economy was also filled with uncertainty, but has recovered fairly well in the years since. 2002 became the year remembered for the escalating pressure on Saddam’s government by (most noticeably) America and Britain. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice became the most prominent administration members to call for Iraq’s dismantlement of supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). In 1998, Saddam kicked out a UN team led by Scot Ritter that were searching and destroying whatever WMDs Iraq had. This unwelcome affront prompted a series of bombing runs by the American military, but, more importantly, it appears the UN team destroyed most if not all of Iraq’s weapons program (or so Scot Ritter claims). Both the American and British governments, however, adamantly insisted the Iraqi regime had WMDs, and they went to the UN to prove their case. In September 2002, President Bush gave a speech to the assembled members of the UN and described the dangers of Saddam’s regime. Britain and America tried to coordinate their efforts with the UN, but the simple truth was that many UN nations opposed their stance (which some saw as ‘warmongering’), three of those nations being on the Security Council: France, Russia, and China. Germany also voiced its opposition to a possible war, and, in a diplomatic sense, worked very closely with France to stall the efforts of Britain and the US. The UN agreed to send a new weapons investigative team to Iraq. This new ‘squad’ was led by Swede Hans Blix and remained in Iraq for a few weeks before being pulled out. They visited several sites throughout the country but found no WMDs. In December of 2002, Iraq sent a gargantuan document to the UN ‘detailing’ their weapons stockpiles; it was about 12,000 pages and many believed it was a cheap trick to buy some time (the Iraqis probably believed the analysis of such a huge work would’ve taken a long time). The Bush Administration dismissed the document as false and unhelpful and raised its rhetoric in the homestretch of the road to war. Several experts and analysts have raised an interesting aspect regarding the Administration’s actions towards Iraq before open conflict: such strong rhetoric coupled with the movement of several divisions to Kuwait meant the Administration had already invested a great deal politically in this matter for it not to go to war. Basically, America's image as the world's superpower may have been tainted if its push for war had been held up or thwarted by UN conferences. In early 2003, there was a flurry of diplomatic activity trying to prolong what some saw as inevitable and others as illegal. The UN had passed a resolution advising Saddam to disarm and warning his regime would be overthrown should he fail to do so. Saddam continued to deny the charges being leveled at his government. Colin Powell conducted a famous session at the UN where he revealed evidence of Saddam's WMDs, among them mobile biochemical trucks (earlier Britain had even claimed Saddam could deploy some chemical weapons in about 45 minutes). By this point, however, the posturing by all sides was just to kill time. The spring of 2003 saw the commencement of the war which led to the destruction of the Iraqi army and the fall of Baghdad in approximately three weeks. The spectacular success of the US army was virtually fait accompli, but few in the Administration seem to have been worried about what would follow (at least from what was reported in the media). Statements from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the Vice President stood out as the most optimistic, both men claiming that Iraq would settle down fairly quickly and peacefully (Paul Wolfowitz even claimed the funds from the oil fields could finance Iraq's reconstruction by themselves, a stunning mischaracterization as time has revealed). The largely Anglo-American victory (many other nations were politically allied to this venture, but few of them had the military muscle of Britain and America) brought scenes of jubilation and chaos; Iraqis were generally happy that a hated dictator had finally been booted from power, even pulling down his prime statue in Baghdad as a symbol of their new-found freedom, but also found themselves in a situation of instability, best characterized by the looting of the National Museum in the early stages of the occupation (many special and important artifacts were stolen). President Bush went on an aircraft carrier and, with a "Mission Accomplished" banner in the background, all but declared victory. Some have claimed the US shouldn't have disbanded the Iraqi military in the rapid manner that it did; they view this act as being significantly responsible for the early stages of the insurgency. Over time, a combination of loyal Baathists, petty criminals, and foreign jihadists have combined to create a quasi-miasmic situation that has led to about 15,000 American casualties (over 1,700 of them deaths) and over 100,000 dead Iraqis. The struggle for Iraq has dominated this Administration's foreign policy ever since it went in. It isn't unreasonable to claim that President Bush's legacy largely rests on what transpires in Iraq, but he still has three and a half years to eliminate the effects of previous mistakes. During the same time that Iraq was invaded, the economy was beginning to look up more and more. GDP growth was picking up and the unemployment rate would eventually be stabilized (today it remains in the low 5s). The global economy was shaking off the brutal anxieties which followed 9-11 and, in true tradition, began to expand just as America did. The war caused massive headaches among some of America's allies, many of which had interests in Iraq (the Iraqi government owed boatloads of money to Russia and a variety of French companies conducted business in Iraq). The friendly relations in the aftermath of 9-11 all but disappeared among some circles. Nations like Germany, France, and Russia saw America's actions as a serious violation to a stable world order, almost as if America had began to take matters "into its own hands." Furthermore, as time passed it became thoroughly clear that no weapons existed (leading to confusion amidst some when Vice President Cheney insisted the weapons were still there). The weapons were the main justification for the war, and the failure to find them casts severe doubt over the value of the conflict (in recent years the Administration has shifted its justification for the struggle to the fact that Iraq has become a major center of terrorism, and hence must be defended to give Al-Qaeda a black eye). With Iraq in the background, Bush plunged forward into a very uncertain reelection bid.

Bush’s handling of the economy has been subject to as much doubt as his foreign policy. Some have charged he has squandered away money on fruitless pursuits (such as tax cuts to the rich) while others are generally happy about his plans for an ‘ownership society’ and his supply side economics. It’s crucial to keep in mind that any President can only affect the economy so much. Although it’s very true that Presidents shouldn’t get the blame or the credit for the state of the national economy, most of the time they do, and there’s just no way around it. If economic times are bad, people will complain and turn on someone; the President would be the ideal choice. However, underlying global trends and various other factors, which far beyond the capability to be affected by a leader who may be in power for only four years, play a larger role. Statistically speaking, average GDP growth for the years 2001 (0.8%), 2002 (1.9%), 2003 (3.0%), and 2004 (4.4%) was 2.5%, a figure whose greatness will be subject to much debate (data is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis). The reason is because during the Clinton era average GDP growth was much higher, but a Bush supporter may counter that 9-11 caused much hardship and may be partly responsible for the ostensibly poor growth. Unemployment, however, seems to be doing much better. Bush got somewhat of a negative reputation in that field during the first term as he ran the risk of being the first president since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss in jobs. The unemployment rate has drastically fallen from the times when it had broken 6% and as of May 2005 stands at 5.1%. One problem I can gage with the Bush economic plan would be its overt simplicity, and though simplicity is often viewed as positive, it has a tendency to fail in the application to complex structures (like a national economy). Bush’s economic thinking is too supply-sided, this at a time when most economists dismiss supply-side theory as little more than ineffective. Even the development of supply-side theory was borne more by journalists than economists. Today, many economists are pursuing a neo-Keynesian course; few serious economists waste their time on supply side ‘theory.’ The idea from the perspective of taxes, famously established into policy under Reagan, argues that that limiting tax rates for the wealthiest individuals will cause some of that money to ‘trickle down’ to the lower levels of society, and in this manner bring wealth to everyone. It is a dangerously ineffective policy and data has shown this to be true over and over again. Policies like these only serve to increase the gap between the wealthy and the rest in this nation. Bush’s tax cut has no doubt been formulated with Reagan in mind; the majority of the tax cuts go to the extremely wealthy, the exact people who don’t need them (if anything, they need to be taxed, since they can still handle it financially). Like the rest of Bush’s policies, however, it’s still too early to make definitive conclusions. He still has three and a half years to go and many things could change in that interval.

Democratic hopefuls had initiated their campaigns at or around the time of the Iraqi invasion. The early leading candidate was Howard Dean, the governor of Vermont whose appeal to the grass roots via active internet campaigning and fund-raising skyrocketed his presidential bid to the fore of the political spectrum. He was featured on the covers of Time magazine and Newsweek by the summer of 2003 and had many prematurely concluding that he would be the Democratic candidate for President. There were many others in the race, among the most eminent being Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts (the man whom many thought would be the leader in the race), Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Former Supreme NATO Commander Wesley Clark joined the race later after polling displayed a public seemingly receptive to having him as President. The campaign was dynamic and had the Democrats generally assenting that the President had botched the mission in Iraq. Howard Dean drove this point home better than the others and his efforts led to widespread political approval. The candidates also accused the President of, among other things, mishandling the economy and violating environmental integrity, but it was unmistakably clear that Iraq and the war on terror were the prime issues, at least in the early stages. Administration officials played up the President's credentials in the war on terror, an arena where he still had large support with the public. In December 2003, Saddam Hussein was finally found. At this critical juncture, many believe Howard Dean made a mistake which may have cost him the Iowa caucus; he claimed that Saddam's capture didn't make us safer. As it turned out, he was right, but at the time such words were very explosive and served as fodder for both Bush and Dean's Democratic competitors. In January, John Kerry surged forward in the polls and managed to win the Iowa caucus, breathing new life into a campaign that up till then had been viewed as either a disappointment or a failure. He went on to win all the primary races except the one in South Carolina, which was snatched by the junior Senator John Edwards, and managed to grab the necessary amount of delegates needed to give him the nod at the convention. Democrats may have turned on Dean because they thought Kerry to be more 'electable,' a person more composed than Dean and one who seemed like a President. The country was sharply split and both Bush and Kerry realized they had more than a tough fight ahead. Kerry selected Edwards as his running mate a few weeks before the convention in hopes that Edwards' charisma and Southern origins would give counterweight to Kerry's perceived stale character and liberal, Massachusetts roots. The polls after the Democratic convention (which was before the Republic) in late July showed Kerry to be leading slightly, but all in all the situation was static. The Republican Convention was followed by a string of vicious attack ads from a group known as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. They claimed Kerry lied a great deal about his record in Vietnam. Polls showed these preposterous ads actually had an effect, and the Republicans entered their convention somewhat in a giddy mood. They emerged in an equally happy state since post-convention polls revealed Bush to be ahead of Kerry by double digits. The Kerry campaign did everything it could to resurrect the situation, but things pretty much continued in the same way until October, when the three debates virtually rescued Kerry. Kerry had been on debate teams and was considered dangerous by the Bush camp, although the Kerry campaign extended the same courtesies to Bush. After the three debates, Kerry was viewed as the frontrunner thanks to impressive performances (especially in the first). The two candidates went into Election Day with polls having them all but deadlocked. In the end, Bush won the popular vote by three million and triumphed in the electoral vote by dozens of points (although the change of one state, Ohio, to Kerry would've given Kerry the victory). The election had seriously tested Bush's mettle, but in the end he prevailed in a much more dependable fashion than his previous race. Bush believed his triumph vindicated his foreign and domestic policies and commented that he would 'spend' this newfound political 'capital' to the best of his abilities. What caused his victory is still subject to heated debate, but perhaps an influential factor may have been the comfort he gave to many Americans in these unsettling times. Many people view Bush as an honest individual, "one of them" in essence, and supported his efforts in the war on terror. The Bush campaign also did a spectacular jon in portraying John Kerry as a "flip flopper," a person who changes position on the issues (in this context at least), and going on to claim that such a person would be dangerous to have leading America in trying times. The campaign, largely masterminded by political strategist Karl Rove, was amazingly effective in light of the heavy opposition Bush faced from many circles. Surprisingly, the Democrats raised more funds than the Republicans during the race but were not that shrewd in spending them (Kerry had $15 million in the coffers by election's end, sparking much outrage and obfuscation). This unwise 'frugality' no doubt had some impact on the election's outcome, as money is virtually the end all and be all of American politics (Republican success in the past few decades has been brought about partially due to their advantage in money over the Democrats). A new feature of the campaign which will expand in the future will be heavy utilization of the internet, which both sides used to raise money, and the ubiquitous 527 ad groups that inundated the airwaves with excessively partisan messages (these were prominent on the liberal side).

The euphoria over Bush's victory has been eradicated in a very harsh manner. Today, the President's popularity is sagging and support for the Iraqi war has plummeted as well. Economic growth has been doing fairly well but much of the nation is apparently focused on Iraq. The Administration has been accused of doing a poor job of explaining the situation to the people and Bush, normally a very reclusive President, will give a public speech to be televised by the main networks next week. He will highlight the need for America to prevail in Iraq and the futility of placing timetables regarding troop withdrawal. Despite these media efforts, only success on the ground can convince the American public that this is a worthwhile pursuit. Many nations have already pulled their forces from Iraq or are going to pull them out, further weakening the Administration's assurances that the Iraqi invasion was a just act. We are all watching closely and hope it ends well. In the second part, I will analyze the Administration holistically and see what its actions mean for the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hmm...

There was much news on China today. Their companies have been buying some American ones and recently they've been getting more publicity than usual. There were several comparisons with what's occurring here with what happened in the 1980s. Back then, Japanese companies buying up American assets like crazy had everyone worried (rightly so), and some believe (or have used this example) that we shouldn't worry too much about what's happening here. Too early to tell how it'll play out, but I'd like to note there are differences with what China's doing and what Japan did....China is actually taking its assets and using them to bolster home growth, whereas Japan kept investing in America. Not to mention China's potential is immense.....one day, that nation may single-handedly lead the world economy out of and into recessions....

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Theory of Everything (Second Part)

M-theory was first proposed by Dr. Edward Witten in the mid-1990s and stands for "membrane theory" (this title will become clear shortly). Other suppositions on what the "M" stands for have been "mother" (as in, the mother of all theories) or even "magic." As was stated before, M-theory combines 11-dimensional supergravity with the five superstring theories. M-theory is related to these two models by something known as duality. In physics, duality refers to the equivalence of physical theories if their physical properties are identical after some sort of mathematical transformation. We mentioned earlier how physicists had a problem in adequately explaining the weakness of gravity. To solve this, they imagined that the tiny and one-dimensional strings were immersed in membranes called "p-branes" (this name was given because these new membranes didn't have to be one-dimensional, hence "p number of membranes") which floated freely in the 11th dimension. It was theorized that these p-branes collectively caused the weakness of gravity in, at least, the p-brane where Earth is found (an entity we know as the "Universe"). Scientists also theorized "d-branes," named for the famous German mathematician Johann Dirichlet, who created the formalized definition of a function, which are simply a special class of p-branes (they are useful in determining the endpoints for open strings, since they are based on the Dirichlet boundary condition, which basically specifies the values a solution takes on the border of a domain in a differential equation). D-branes allow the use of perturbative methods in non-perturbative objects (perturbation theory uses mathematical approximations to describe a complex quantum systems in terms of a much more simpler one). All of that may sound like complicated jibberish, but all it says is that now scientists have a means of clarifying the behavior of many objects in these theories using simpler objects (some p-branes, for example, have been found to be d-branes). Before we explore some of the individual theories that constitute M-theory, we need to have a little understanding of a string's physical aspects. Strings are one-dimensional (conceptually defined as a line), they can be closed or open (the former meaning a string would be like a circle, obviously with no end points, while the latter would actually have end points) around a tube (a line-like object in space that appears cylindrical after magnification) immersed in a brane, they can form donut-shaped or loop-like objects that possess flux lines (flux lines are lines, as the name suggests, which, depending on the number and their placement on the manifolds, the six-dimensional analogues of circles located at every point in our spacetime, constitute the forces present in our everyday world). Flux lines are very important because they can change. And if flux lines change, then the visible manifestations of the Universe will also change. The consequences of this would be amazingly aberrant from what we're used to: imagine an electrically charged Universe! That gravity has a more pervasive role in the future of this Universe than electromagnetism (which, as we mentioned, is a much stronger force than gravity) is a testament to our electrically neutral domain. Let's hope it stays that way. But, of course, it may not. A change of flux lines in one manifold at one point in space could rapidly spread to other manifolds and begin a chain reaction, or a spreading "bubble," which alters both the subatomic and macroscopic properties of the space it invades. Physicists now increasingly believe this is what the Big Bang actually was: a manifold changing its state due to quantum effects and spreading that change to surrounding areas. In M-theory, the Big Bang is represented as a collision of p-branes, which are constantly moving in the 11th dimension. The collision produces a wave of alterations in the manifolds, and hence a wave of alterations in that particular space. Now that we have some what of a clear grasp of strings and their behavior, it should be noted that the five string theories describe the different types of strings (ie. whether they're closed, open, or circle-like), and the mathematical representations that relate them are known as T-duality, S-duality, U-duality, mirror symmetry, and conifold transitions. Although modern physics is strongly grounded in the belief that scientific theories require rigorous mathematical basis, the operations involved in these theories are fairly difficult relative to the general population (I don't understand their implications, merely the symbols and what they represent, courtesy of high-school calculus), and so math has been eschewed from this article. It is interesting to note that Edward Witten believes new math is needed to represent M-theory, and so far something known as 'Matrix Theory' has been proposed. A few of the main points to remember about M-theory are that it includes higher and lower dimensional objects (p-branes) than strings and that these objects 'hover' in the 11th dimension, receiving the 'leaks' of gravity that our dimension gives, thus leading to the weakness of gravity that we perceive. Now we turn to a more popular aspect of M-theory: parallel Universes! They exist, or so the theory says. According to M-theory, there are an infinite number of other worlds that are just moving along the 11th dimension (p-branes), and in these worlds may exist the dreams of some, the nightmares of others, both in separate realms, and everything else in between! What do I mean? There is a Universe out there where you (yes you, the one reading this article) are the fastest swimmer in the world, or where you are President of the United States, or one where you were not born at all! Two of these parallel Universes may have collided to form the Big Bang (as was mentioned earlier). The Second Superstring Revolution of the mid-1990s formed the basis of much of what was covered here. It led to the dualities, the formulation of M-theory, and a comprehension of black hole entropy (the measure of the amount of energy in a system that can do no work and also of the amount of disorder in a system, both measured in joules per kelvin, or J/K) at the microscopic level. People who believe the Universe can be described by one model also believe there is a "mother equation" from which others can be derived. The search for this equation is also part of M-theory. Ongoing work in the field seems promising and many scientists (most notably Stephen Hawking) believe we are very close to a clear understanding of the reality in our physical world.

Personally, I think we will attain the Theory of Everything within 50 years. However, it is important to clarify a few relevant points: first, although we may have a full model for everything that occurs in the Universe, we may not be certain of all the macroscopic implications of our model for a very long time (I'm referring to the model's predictions regarding time travel or inter-galactic voyages). Second, there are still a few physicists who believe we are nowhere close to a Theory of Everything, and these differences may or may not be ironed out with the rest of the scientific community (part of this debate, however, is what makes the pursuit of science exciting and non-formulaic, as imagined by many people who think what they learn in high school is the end-all and be-all). Third, these theories still have to be tested, and until they do, they should be viewed with skepticism. What makes the situation more palatable, however, is the fact that the theories are backed up by mathematical work. In the end, we will do it; we will actually find the answer to everything that physically occurs. When that day arrives, it will earn its place as one of the most important in human history.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Graduation

We graduated today! Finally.......now to look forward to years and years of gruelling labor in college....

Anti-Syrian politician George Hawi was killed in Beirut today by a bomb after Lebanon's elections....

European officials are meeting with their American counterparts this week to discuss, among other things, Europe's role in a changing world....

Abbas and Sharon meet in a summit to discuss the peaceful evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza...

"Batman Begins" dominates the weekend box office, earning about $47 million....

Monday, June 20, 2005

On Other Matters....

Today we practiced for tomorrow's graduation. Initial mistakes delayed our departure, but even those blunders aside the event went on for over an hour......without speeches. So tomorrow may easily break two hours.....

The euro continued to fall after the failure of last week's budget talks.....

OPEC is considering raising oil production....

North Korea will 'agree' to scrap its nuke program if America normalizes relations again....

and finally, Voyager 1 is well over 14 billion kilometers away from Earth (the furthest man-made object from our planet) and travelling at roughly 60,000 km/hr with respect to a stationary object viewing it from the side....

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Theory of Everything (First Part)

For those who read the title and went, "What tha..??!?!"; just relax! This name applies to scientific efforts over (mostly) the past century that have tried to explain all physical interactions within a coherent model. It won't answer questions like, "Why doesn't that girl love me back?" I am in the process of formulating a model which will indeed address every conceivable question, but that won't be ready until years upon years from now on (indeed, it may not be finished in my lifetime). This article will strictly focus on the physical part of any theory which purports to describe 'everything.' It will describe previous efforts at these types of theories but will not cover the physical principles behind the theories in great detail.

The first drive for a Theory of Everything, or a Unified Field Theory (UFT) as it's sometimes known, began in the 19th century with legendary physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who successfully united electricity and magnetism into electromagnetism, the most promising UFT known to mankind up till that point. Maxwell was able to show that electricity and magnetism were two different manifestations of the same underlying principle (the belief that the Universe is governed by just a few, comprehensible laws is known as reductionism) since electric currents created a magnetic field (Ampere's law) and moving magnetic fields created an electric field (Faraday's law). Physicists spent the years following Maxwell's death (1879) in a blissful state, looking at their accomplishments and declaring that pretty much all observable phenomena could be adequately explained. It seemed that it was all over. And then, at the dawn of the 20th century, as if to signify a new era in the field, two men became instrumental in revolutionizing our concepts of space, time, and the atomic world. Max Planck was the founder of quantum theory and Einstein of Special and General Relativity. These new models (but particularly the latter) are still the focus points of current theories. Quantim mechanics (just another name for quantum theory) deals with the world at the microscopic level (electrons, protons, etc), and the principles of Special Relativity, one being the constancy of the speed at light in a vacuum, have proved instrumental in the theory's development. General Relativity describes the world at the macroscopic, or cosmic, level. It basically states that matter curves spacetime, and this curvature is responsible for the 'force' we know as gravity. Physics in the 20th century has been largely involved in uniting these two conceptions of two different 'mediums,' if you will. This journey has been extremely difficult and is ongoing to this day. After completing his two trademark theories, Einstein went in a grand but ultimately futile search for the UFT. Part of the problem he had has already been mentioned; it was simply too difficult at the time to reconcile the subatomic world with perceivable reality, and was especially challenging for Einstein since he was rather disinclined to follow quantum theory ("God does not play dice," he said, a soundbite rebuke of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and new emphasis in physics on probabilities instead of the former Newtonian certainties). Einstein's lack of knowledge in particle physics (and, for that matter, the lack of knowledge in this field of all physicists at the time) became readily apparent in the mid-20th century, when scientists began to discover dozens upon dozens of previously undetected particles. A fairly clear picture of particle physics didn't emerge until the 1970s. With the passage of time, a string (pardon the pun; this will become clear soon if you have no idea why it's a pun) of new theories unrolled to explain the Universe. One of these was something known as 'String theory' (now you get it!) Before its development, scientists had constructed physical theories with the zero-dimensional concept of a particle (basically, particles were viewed as point-like). Now, they began to mathematically observe that one-dimensional strings (lines, which do not have to be straight and can vibrate) which approached Planckian length (the limit of length that no object in the Universe can be less than, about 10^-33 cm) provided a better explanation for the manifestations of the Universe. Essentially, the composition and interactions of these one-dimensional strings gave rise to our macroscopic world. After continuing to study string theory, scientists realized that they had five equations to deal with, and thus (or it was supposed), five different models of the Universe at its most fundamental level. After quite a bit of flak, however, it was realized the equations all basically revealed the same thing. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the theory was its viability in 10 dimensions. According to string theory, there are the four spacetime dimensions we are all familiar with, and then six extra dimensions curled up into tiny, microscopic circles, and hence completely unnoticeable to a human. Here we must pause and consider a philosophical aspect. Although science (and humanity in general) relies heavily on observations to construct a theory or idea (induction), many physicists have, in recent times, opted to first creating an idea or model that could accurately portray our world (deduction). Therefore, string theory has not been experimentally verified (although such tests have recently started and will intensify in upcoming years). One weakness string theory had in the minds of many was a problem often encountered before: the difficulty of explaining the weakness of gravity. Gravity is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force being the other three) and it is the weakest. To help in the endeavor, physicists began to give a serious look at a theory they previously had dismissed as ludicrous: supergravity. Supergravity combines supersymmetry and general relativity. The latter theory has been loosely explained, which leaves supersymmetry, a model which states there is a symmetry between bosons (particles that transmit forces and have integral spin, like photons, gluons, or gravitons) and fermions (particles that constitute matter and have half-integer spin, like electrons, protons, or neutrons). 'Spin' is a new term, but it simply refers to the number of times a particle (or object) must be turned so that it reaches its initial position. So suppose a fermion has 1/2 spin; this means if a fermion is positioned in a certain manner, it will have to make two complete revolutions to appear in that original form. If a boson has a spin of 1, it will have to make one complete revolution. Supergravity works in 11 dimensions, thus replacing the former 10 of string theory. But because string theory had still many advantages, scientists incorporated the two models into a new, cutting edge UFT: M-theory. M-theory remains at the center of occurring research and many today view it as the most promising sign for The Theory of Everything. It will be briefly examined in Part Two.