Re: state of memes

Date: Mon Oct 01 2001 - 21:11:24 BST

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    Subject: Re: state of memes
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    Hi Vincent.

    In a message dated 10/1/2001 6:13:54 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

    > Subj: RE: state of memes
    > Date: 10/1/2001 6:13:54 AM Central Daylight Time
    > From: (Vincent Campbell)
    > Sender:
    > Reply-to:
    > To: ('')
    > Hi Aaron,
    > I'd agree with your view that Iraq becoming a nuclear power is not
    > to be welcomed, but there has been a kind of patriarchal attitude from
    > existing nuclear powers- "we're all right to have them- but you can't".
    > What that fails to acknowledge is that this position of exclusive access to
    > the only military technology that ensures a degree of genuine sovereignty
    > for a state, worries many nations, and not surprisingly the more aggressive
    > of these have persued, and still persue achieving this regardless of what
    > others may want.

    Much of this comes down to how we deal with the fundamental imperfection of
    this little universe we have. One of the imperfections, if we want to call it
    that, is the very fact that fission and fusion bombs are possible. Another
    imperfection is that we have not found a way to have all such weapons
    controlled by a single and universally trusted world organization. But given
    these imperfections, we are forced to decide whether we want to apply the
    ideas of democracy and egalitarianism to states or individuals. It is not
    logically possible to confer democracy to both individuals and states given
    that some states can be despotic dictatorships. Given that, I tend to favor
    conferring such imperfect gestures of democracy as we can muster to the
    individuals of a society rather than a state. So if there is a state whose
    ruler is willing to get 99% of the country's population killed in order to
    gain power over an expanded empire, I tend to favor the individuals that make
    up the 99% who would die. Also, if there is a state whose rulers are willing
    to throw the entire country into mass martyrdom in order to battle an
    "infidel," I again favor the individuals over the state. But that is not to
    say that great masses of individuals are right either. Much of my work
    discusses how vast numbers of people can all go wrong together about
    something. For the time being, I would choose the imperfection of having
    state-level paternalism with no nuclear war over a democratization of
    thermonuclear arms combined with the almost certain mass loss of life that
    would ensue. I also do not favor a democratization or "free market" of
    thermonuclear weapons for the citizens of a country, allowing any individual
    rich enough to buy them to have them.
    > Actually, I wanted to ask a couple of quick questions, one related, one not
    > so related. First, you've posted a few times about the attack on the
    > and the forces involved leading to the massive extent of destruction. One
    > discussion I've heard (amongst students I teach) is about whether the
    > hijackers intended to cause the towers to collapse, or whether they
    > only to kill themselves and those on the plane, with crashing into the
    > towers being more of a symbolic act. Do you think they would have worked
    > out how much damage they'd need to do to bring the towers down and cause
    > most destruction, or where they more opportunists?

    My impression is that they indeed did go through the calculations of what it
    would take to initiate a chain-reaction of floors hitting floors to destroy
    the World Trade Center. The also timed the attack at approximately the start
    of the business day, not in the middle of the night or on a weekend.
    Unfortunately, this attack was planned carefully over a period of more than a
    > The reason this question comes up probably comes from UK experience of
    > terrorism, where warnings are given, or bombs are detonated late at night
    > at weekends, such that the death toll is minimal. The terrorists in
    > Ireland have a sense of public opinion- hence the 'mistake' at Omagh, where
    > 20+ people died because the warnings were too late, and incorrect about the
    > bomb's location. That assumes of course that the US attackers were
    > similarly minded as the likes of the IRA, but the scale of this event
    > suggests otherwise.

    Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that the terrorists who attacked the
    World Trade Center and the Pentagon may have also been "pulling their
    punches," but on a far worse scale. To their thinking, they may view the Word
    Trade Center killings as killings of the guilty global economic infidel
    imperialists, and of the Pentagon and other apparent US government targets as
    killing of the guilty global military infidel imperialists. They may have
    regarded their political constituents around the world as probably not
    favoring a slaughter of millions of ordinary civilians. But I cannot entirely
    rule out the possibility that Osama Bin Laden has spent some of his millions
    to acquire thermonuclear weapons, and that such weapons are already placed in
    major cities. He may view the use of such weapons as politically acceptable
    to his constituents only if the US reacts with a major military campaign.
    Arguing against this possibility is the likelihood that their ideology is
    just so intense that they would have used the worst mode of attack at their
    disposal as soon as they had the means and the planning to carry it out. In
    that case, jetliners as incendiary missiles should be taken as a warning of
    vastly worse possibilities.

    > The other question, completely unrelated, is a quickie about this new
    > of the universe's origin, I've been reading about in New Scientist, the
    > ekpyrotic theory I believe it's called. Since you're the only physicist I
    > know, what's your view on this?

    Yes, the ekpyrotic theory. I haven't read the New Scientist treatment, so I
    cannot comment on how they might have presented the subject. Science
    magazines sold at newsstands and to non-scientists have been veering into a
    flashy-science mode lately. But the ekpyrotic theory does seem to be a viable
    hypothesis. It has the appeal of explicitly connecting cosmological
    observations to multi-dimensional "brane" theory. The big bang with inflation
    remains a very strong hypothesis as well.

    > Vincent

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