Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Quick Thoughts on Ukraine and Europe
So I rarely share my opinions on contemporary international relations. Let me throw caution to wind and say something about the significance about what’s going on in Ukraine. The real issue is whether Ukraine gets to be part of Europe or the “Eurasian” coalition being built by Russia’s tough and astute Putin. I don’t want to demonize Putin, who is acting effectively as a Russian nationalist to build an “authoritarian” coalition as an alternative to the European Union. That coalition, we notice first off, includes Iran!
The argument for Putin’s coalition is that Europe has become so decadent that it’s unsustainable. And astute European thinkers, such as the French political philosopher Pierre Manent, have written about the post-political, post-familial, and post-religious fantasies that have distorted European thought and action. Europe does, in fact, have sustainability “issues,” and they are displayed in its “birth dearth” and its inability to act confidently as a political unit or units. Manent’s astuteness is seeing in Western Europe a kind of generalized hatred of bodies--of anything that reminds the particular person of his limitations, of his “particularity” as a being born to love and die in a particular time and place. European cosmopolitanism has morphed into a kind of emptiness because it’s going too way too far in detaching “being personal” with “being relational.”
Having said all that, we have to be for Ukraine’s courageous choice for Europe over Eurasia. The choice is for free and democratic political life and for the cherishing of the dignified rights of the human person. European thinkers as diverse as Josef Ratzinger and Jurgen Habermas have written on the impossibility of detaching that devotion to the person from Europe’s Christian roots. And that’s why, in my opinion, Europe today is ennobled by the examples of Poland and Hungary and, we can anticipate, Ukraine not detaching the spirit of modern liberty from the spirit of religion. Countries that are able to do that, as Alexis de Tocqueville explains, are best able to reconcile a devotion to personal liberty and even a free economy with a common morality and active citizenship.
Although there are many differences between the United States and the members of the European Union today (and I’ve already explained, contrary to the nerve of President Obama’s policies, why Americans should hold on to those seemingly atrophying political, religious, and economic differences), we are Europeans insofar as we’re about the primacy of civilized personal freedom. We can’t “buy into” the thought that Ukraine somehow “belongs” to Russia for historical or geostrategic reasons. We’re for the rule of law, for civilization, for free political institutions, and for the limitation of political rule by the transpolitical and relational origin and destiny we all share. We’re for those for everyone, including, of course, the people of Ukraine.
Obviously I’m not saying we should intervene militarily (with what army, someone might say?), but neither we nor the European Union should be intimated into not choosing publicly and in not doing what we can in appropriately prudent and so very modest ways to facilitate Ukraine’s attempt to choose for Europe. I have to add, to be clear, that Ukraine could certainly choose for Europe without choosing for the EU, as there is a growing awareness among European thinkers that Europe might do better in finding its identity in either the absence of or a radical reconfiguration of that ambiguous (because not clearly political) and administratively intrusive attempt at union.
Let me repeat that these thoughts are tentative. They also, I think, have something to offend everyone. So feel free to tell me how wrong I am. You may even be right.
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.