On A Mutual Love-In

So as Americans like our Queen, we Brits tend to like your Presidents. I happen to like this President, which meant that the usual bile I reserve for the saccharine News coverage the BBC ladled out for the visit to Britain by the Obamas was largely absent today.


We are supposed to live in a les deferential age, so the fawning coverage of the recent Royal Wedding and today’s Presidential visit, especially by the BBC is still difficult to stomach, despite, as I say my own liking for Obama. The heavy duty serious coverage and analysis is, as usual left to Channel 4 News and later on by the flagship programme – our own ‘Situation Room’ if you like, ‘Newsnight’.

Not that there will all that much for anyone to say. Today President Obama met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and took the salute in Buckingham Palace gardens, because security prevents American Presidents being driven down The Mall in an open topped carriage. The Obamas then went on to meet  Prince William and his new wife, who is now Princess of something or other, before going off to play ping pong with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at a Secondary School.

We shouldn’t get too carried away, but ping pong was the opening gambit between President Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao of China in the former’s historic visit to ‘Red China’. How ironic that the Chinese Politbureau, despite having converted itself to Market Leninism, in the past decade completely turned the tables on the liberal Anglo American economic model and sat back as the Western economies consumed themselves to unsustainable excess and then near collapse. But I digress.

Tomorrow the serious talking gets underway in Britain between Obama and Cameron, although let us not pretend that they are some kind of equals. The BBC will prattle on about the ‘Special Relationship’, and Royal correspondents will become Presidential correspondents for another day. Americans will, if they have noticed that their President is away, be baffled to hear the words ‘special relationship’, and cynics will say the whole visit is a PR stunt. Which of course to some extent it is.

But who can blame the Obamas,and who can blame the United States? Any President, however remote his ancestry will always be given a welcome in Ireland, the Emerald Isle. And US Presidents (George Bush the second excepted) can count on a warm welcome in Britain.

But the biggest relief is surely that David Cameron appears to be his own man, and anxious to dispel the ‘poodle’ image that was associated with Tony Blair.

Trusting your instincts is lazy: Poker pro Liv Boeree on Big Think Edge

International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches decision-making for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to make decisions with the clarity of a World Series Poker Champion.
  • Liv Boeree teaches analytical thinking for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Mining the Moon

How can we use the resources that are already on the Moon to make human exploration of the satellite as economical as possible?

The All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE), a prototype heavy-lift utility vehicle to support future human exploration of extraterrestrial surfaces, at right, is parked beside the Habitat Demonstration Unit - Pressurized Excursion Module (HDU-PEM), at left, a concept off-Earth living and work quarters for astronauts stationed on asteroids, the moon or Mars, 15 September 2010. Photo by: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

If you were transported to the Moon this very instant, you would surely and rapidly die. That's because there's no atmosphere, the surface temperature varies from a roasting 130 degrees Celsius (266 F) to a bone-chilling minus 170 C (minus 274 F). If the lack of air or horrific heat or cold don't kill you then micrometeorite bombardment or solar radiation will. By all accounts, the Moon is not a hospitable place to be.

Keep reading Show less

Here's when machines will take your job, as predicted by A.I. gurus

An MIT study predicts when artificial intelligence will take over for humans in different occupations.

Photo credit: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO / AFP / Getty Images
Surprising Science

While technology develops at exponential speed, transforming how we go about our everyday tasks and extending our lives, it also offers much to worry about. In particular, many top minds think that automation will cost humans their employment, with up to 47% of all jobs gone in the next 25 years. And chances are, this number could be even higher and the massive job loss will come earlier.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists reactivate cells from 28,000-year-old woolly mammoth

"I was so moved when I saw the cells stir," said 90-year-old study co-author Akira Iritani. "I'd been hoping for this for 20 years."

Yamagata et al.
Surprising Science
  • The team managed to stimulate nucleus-like structures to perform some biological processes, but not cell division.
  • Unless better technology and DNA samples emerge in the future, it's unlikely that scientists will be able to clone a woolly mammoth.
  • Still, studying the DNA of woolly mammoths provides valuable insights into the genetic adaptations that allowed them to survive in unique environments.
Keep reading Show less