>As important as Darwin

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I have often asked people if they were offered the opportunity to fly to the next inhabited galaxy and make contact but it was a one-way ticket, would they take it? Responses are mixed but generally err on the side of caution. Reasons of family and friends are cited but while I see the fear, too often I detect a lack of curiousity beyond our own means. Below is an article from the Economist, celebrating Galileo’s discoveries, 400 years ago and highlighting how important he really was in undermining religious doctrine and primeval superstitions and bringing science up to the lead inf explaining why the world and dear ourselves’ exist

FOUR hundred years ago our understanding of the universe changed for ever. On August 25th 1609 an Italian mathematician called Galileo Galilei demonstrated his newly constructed telescope to the merchants of Venice. Shortly afterwards he turned it on the skies. He saw mountains casting shadows on the moon and realised this body was a world, like the Earth, endowed with complicated terrain. He saw the moons of Jupiter—objects that circled another heavenly body in direct disobedience of the church’s teaching. He saw the moonlike phases of Venus, indicating that this planet circled the sun, not the Earth, in even greater disobedience of the priests. He saw sunspots, demonstrating that the sun itself was not the perfect orb demanded by the Greek cosmology that had been adopted by the church. But he also saw something else, a thing that is often now forgotten. He saw that the Milky Way, that cloudy streak across the sky, is made of stars.

That observation was the first hint that, not only is the Earth not the centre of things, but those things are vastly, almost incomprehensibly, bigger than people up until that date had dreamed. And they have been getting bigger, and also older, ever since. Astronomers’ latest estimates put the age of the universe at about 13.7 billion years. That is three times as long as the Earth has existed and about 100,000 times the lifespan of modern humanity as a species. The true size of the universe is still unknown. Its age, and the finite speed of light, means no astronomer can look beyond a distance of 13.7 billion light-years. But it is probably bigger than that.

Nor does reality necessarily end with this universe. Physics, astronomy’s dutiful daughter, suggests that the object that people call the universe, vast though it is, may be just one of an indefinite number of similar structures, governed by slightly different rules from each other, that inhabit what is referred to, for want of a better term, as the multiverse.
Star trek

The shattering of the crystal spheres which Galileo’s contemporaries thought held the planets and the stars, with the sphere containing the stars representing the edge of the universe, is (along with Darwin’s discovery of evolution by natural selection) the biggest revolution in self-knowledge that mankind has undergone. The world that Galileo was born into was of comprehensible compass. The Greeks had a fair idea of the size of the Earth and the distance to the moon, and so did the medievals who read their work. But these were distances that the imagination might, at a stretch, embrace. And it was easier to believe that a human-sized universe was one that might have been brought into being with humanity in mind. It is harder, though, to argue that the modern version of cosmology, let alone any hypothetical one which is multiversal rather than universal, has come about for mankind’s convenience.

Four centuries on, it is difficult to think of Galileo’s intellectual heirs, meeting this week in Rio de Janeiro under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union (see article), as firebrand revolutionaries. Yet their discoveries—from planets around other stars that may support alien life, to dark matter and energy of unknown nature that are the dominant stuff of reality—are no less world-changing than his. Moderns may be more comfortable than medievals with the idea that man’s notion of his place within the universe can suddenly change. That should not blind them to the wonder of it.

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Stockholm

You’d think I’d be mildly depressed after losing two bottles of Zubrowka in 3 hours. A bad omen maybe. A sense of forboding may overcome me. But only if I was another man. I had an awesome time. A mere few days which were off the chart despite very little of note occuring.

Marcuz’s comment about being the token white boy still makes me giggle. Sitting in a nightclub, getting in free due to Marcuz’s old bouncing profession, perched on the top table watching the dance floor, holding on as the music pinged around us, Marcuz turned to me and thanked me for being there. After all, if I wasn’t it would simply look like 3 Arabs guys staring at the girls shuffling around their bags. I had never been the token white boy before. Or even conceived the role.

However it concised what surprised me by Stockholm: it’s multi-culturalism. Or the lack of blonde haired Swedenishness. Even more ironically only one of the guys was of Arab descent. Marcuz is half Ethiopian-half Swedish, another guy was full Persian while the only Abie was from Iraqi stock. All were born and grew up in Sweden. They were Swedes. Just of the modern variety.

I had picked an odd weekend to arrive in Stockholm. It was mid-summer, the biggest celebration bar Christmas. A lot of Stockholm’s white population had left the city to visit family in their home towns. The centre had an eerie feeling. Tourists snapped away but most shops were closed, the June weather was overcast and threatened to drizzle over the imposing Grand Palace. It imposed but fairly to impress. It seemed functional, grand but boring.

Marcuz lived south of the centre in a cute and mildly flamboyant apartment, decked out with Africanism, The walls were painted with a pale brown. Portraits hung of African Savannah. Tribal masks guarded the toilet. Marcuz bounced to fund his Masters in Social Anthropology. He had just come back from Palestine, acting as an border monitor. His insight into the world and encouraging words on the subject added fuel to my pire. Marcuz also had an interesting sideline in football hooliganism and an extensive book collection on the subject. I never felt in any danger in his presence though.

His previous career literally opened up all nightclub doors. Marcuz knew every bouncing crew and was particularly close friends with Andy, one of the crew managers. Andy, though not officially allowed to work anymore on the door, was full of banter and made me feel very comfortable. Like meeting the transsexual Clebson on the train to Poland in 2006, this was a weekend of being part of the crew, watching them work, chatting, laughing and drinking with them. I loved it. Arriving at nightclubs and simply strolling in past the long lines of short-skirted blonde girls and escorted in, with handshakes, smiles and free drinks all night can’t fail.

I don’t think I really learnt much about Sweden in general or Stockholm in particular. But Marcuz introduced me to a slice of life for which I am grateful. A slice of humanity and a shitload of beers. Southside 4eva!!

>Yeah right!

>The largest study of banknotes has found that 95% of dollar bills in Washington DC bear traces of the illegal drug cocaine.The figure for the US capital is up 20% over two years.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth tested notes from more than 30 cities worldwide. They say the rise observed in the US may be due to increased drug use caused by higher stress levels linked to the global economic downturn.

Lol. So apparently times are so tough, the cosmopolitian bureaucracy of D.C., without the pressure of job losses are turning to cocaine to escape the pressure of making up figures.

>Yah!

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I know I am due to post some thoughts and words. I have plenty but haven’t found the time. Family, weekends away, work and fixing stuff has taken more time than I thought possible. Plenty needs to be sorted asap, Uni, jobs etc but almost everything of worth is getting lost in a relativity washing machine. I don’t I am controlling the spin cycle that well.

However I am reading right now. Just finished a anthropological book on Africa and 3/4s through Chinua Achebe’s Anthills on the Savannah. After that, its more Africa and Indonesia. Music is going well though I am likely to miss the tour to the Czech Rep. The timing clashes with a family get-together which I have to attend.

I am  working right now. Just 15 hours a week but its very well-paid. I’d take more hours however. I just want to get out of my small debts and have the disposal income to choose a Uni start date. That does mean keeping my head down somewhat. Uni, Colombia and Indonesia remain the priorities for the next few years. After this 5 year plan, I expect to be in a position to lay back and move onto what I want.

Women are a shambles as usual! Got parties and weddings to attend to over the next few weeks as well as the long wait to get paid but I will get on to this starting with my review of Sham-taram. I’ll get some thoughts up on Eastern Europe as well what photos I have left after formatting my harddrive to get Linux Mint 7 on there. Pah! Some good times out there.

>Season Preview 09-10

>Arsenal

Despite selling some big name players and only bringing Vermaelen, Arsenal are possibly stronger this year than last. They will get a full season of Arshavin, Walcott, Eduardo and Van Persie start the season fit and some of the young players have been blooded in what was a tough season. I didn’t see too much of Arshavin but he is the link man Nasri is yet to be. With some gut in the middle of defence or midfield, they will be in the Top 4 again.

Aston Villa

Losing Laursen and Barry will hurt Villa. Laursen was not only an old head but he chipped in with plenty of goals. That said, selling Zack Knight might actually strengthen them at the back. The excellent Beye has come in from Newcastle and Downing will add what he has for England. Very little especially when they already have Young and Agbonlahor to actually beat someone. They still lack a goalscorer but if the defence holds firm, they will score and stay in the top 6.

Birmingham City

They will be only looking to stay in 17th place come the end of the season. Signing an unknown South American striker must make Steve Bruce roll his eyes. The rest of the team is functional and for a purpose. Looking for 5 across the middle away from home and scrapping enough home wins to stay up.

Blackburn Rovers

Losing Santa Cruz wont affect Rovers at all. McCarthy and Roberts will play the quick, strong man upfront routine while the midfield plays box-to-box for 90mins to keep Rovers in between 12th and 14th for most of the season.

Bolton Wanderers

Similar to Rovers but lacking the attacking pace or flair, Bolton will struggle to get out of the bottom six all season but should have enough defensive brunt and midfield drive to get the dead ball goals. Won’t be pretty.

Burnley

I like small teams getting up there and I must confess I didn’t see much of them in the Championship. They will struggle from a lack of goals if not heart. Playing passing football is a recipe for admiration but ultimate disaster. Burnley might stay up but it’s unlikely.

Chelsea

Ancelotti may have won the Charity Shield but it’s still a matter of time before he gets fired. I give him one and a half seasons. What might save him is the relative weaknesses of their main opponents, Hanging onto Carvalho is an excellent move and with the strength down the spine from Cech to Drogba and in depth, they will be close this year especially if Essien is fit for 38 games. Champions. (Jesus I hated typing that) 

Everton

Tougher season for Everton coming up. No one of note has come in and Lescott is going to leave. If Yakubu and Arteta can get back to old form, Cahill stays fit and Fellini continue his promise, they will continue to be tough to beat and able to nick good wins away from home. Top 8 but not Europe.

Fulham

Excellent season for Hodgson last season, building a solid defence, creative midfield and squeezing goals out of second-rate strikers. The second season will be harder especially with the European distraction but they’ll still finish comfortably in the top 12.

Hull City

Relegated

Liverpool

The loss of Alonso and his replacement with Aquilani weakens Liverpool but they might now be able to call on Torres for a full season to feast on the crosses from the world greatest ever right back, £368m Glen Johnson. They will remain defensively strong across the back 6, if Gerrard can avoid a dust-up and Ryan Babel actually gets better at some point, they should have enough to be right at the top of the league as the season draws in.

Manchester City

Hughes has to start well and he has started well by buying well. His attack is undoubtedly strong having ridiculous amount of options up front. His great problem may be keeping them happy. But scoring goals was never their problem last year. The defence has been addressed with Barry coming in to sweep and Toure will allow Dunne to focus on man-to-man management. With Ireland and Barry flanked by Robinho and SWP, Man City will move up, finishing in the top 6 which wont be enough to save Hughes from the Chairman unless he is busy stoning some women.

Manchester United

Curious summer from Fergie. Losing Ronaldo will dent them but the cock wanted to leave so what can you do. However they have no replacement and have bought nothing of note. Losing out on Benzema will have hurt and Owen must be the poor fall back there. I am sure he will score a few though. Rooney must stay fit all season. Winning the games against Liverpool must be priorities but there is a feeling that while this team might be competitive in the league, Europe is beyond them. Third.

Portsmouth

They seem to have sold everything except their shit stadium this summer. James has been a star for the last few years but that is also a measure of the team. That defence has lost £869m Johnson, has an ageing Campbell and a want-away Distin to hold it together. Kranjcar is a talent but the loss of Crouch and Defoe means he have a frustrating season as the team drop into the Championship.

Stoke City

Visibly rubbish, the new Bolton, Stoke stayed up by 11pts last season and with the new influx of Championship teams, they should hold it together again through hard-work and route 1.

Sunderland

A new decent manager with defensive nous, Bruce should get Sunderland moving up and towards the top 10. Bent will score goals off Jones, Richardson will be fit and has competition from Cana, yet another former Marseille captain to play in the North-East.

Spurs

Harry throws round yet more cash for players and players he knows and trusts. Its worked before and will continue to as he adds some solid Premier League players to an already good squad. Getting rid of the likes of lazy Zokoro will help. If King and Woodgate stay fit, the season will look promising but as usual Spurs will beat a big team 4-3 in the last minute while finishing for 8th.

West Ham

Can’t stand a lot about the club but Zola is a man to respect. Taking on a young, talented squad and a near bankrupt club, he took the club within 2 pts of Europe. With good young players like Noble and Ashton (if fit) he might just get them back to the same sort of place. 10th

Wigan Athletic

Bruce performed miracles making a player out of Titus Bramble. Whelan made a better decision than Chris Hutchings even if it is a mild risk. Martinez though should do a solid job even if he has plumped for some Championship players to keep the team up. He should do too finishing a competent 14th.

Wolves

Well its Mick McCarthy so you know it won’t be pretty and it will be last-gasp. His team scored goals in the Championship but will find it tougher in the Premier League. He does have pace and nous up front and if his teams keep the defence together, he might be able to get this team to 14th by Xmas and 17th by the end of the season.

>Cool

>A Greek woman accused of setting fire to the genitals of a British tourist in Crete is due to appear in court.The woman admitted assault after dousing the man’s private parts in alcohol and igniting them, but says she did so after being sexually harassed.

Police on the Greek island say the tourist was drunk and had waved his genitals at several girls before allegedly groping the suspect. The man suffered second degree burns and is recovering in a private clinic.

The 26-year-old suspect handed herself over to police, claiming she had acted in self defence. She has won praise on Crete for what has been seen as defending her honour, the BBC’s Malcolm Brabant said.