Ryan vs. Rand?
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
So I'm not a big fan of convention speeches. I certainly don't think they make a permanent difference in the campaign. Any "bump" is temporary. Remember, after all, that the big bump speech in my memory was Sarah Palin's, one that propelled McCain into the lead (for a couple weeks).
Conventions used to be where the national political party—a coalition of all the state parties—did its deliberation. The result was a platform and a candidate. The platform was the party's, not the candidate's. And the candidate was the creature of the party's deliberation, and not the other way around.
But now, of course, because the party's nominee has been determined well in advance by the "momentum" of the primary process, the convention exists simply to showcase the candidate. Nobody really cares about the platform. The convention is a rally, and all the speeches are vetted by the nominee. Strangely, though, the speeches are rarely about the nominee.
The speakers are judged according to their rhetorical effectiveness. And we think of the key evenings as a sort of American Idol competition. Not surprisingly, the speakers end up being all about displaying themselves, and not their party's candidate.
We remember that Obama's keynote address in 2004 was all about Obama. It was his national audition, and every judge in America thought he deserved his ticket to Hollywood, so to speak. Nobody was thinking Kerry while he talked.
There was the same kind of self-projection in Chris Christie's hugely forceful keynote this year. He's been nothing if not a very loyal and effective Romney supporter, but it took him quite a while to get around to mentioning Mitt's name. He was auditioning for 2016 or beyond, and, if he didn't score quite as well as Obama, he got his ticket to being the favorite for the next campaign. Christie's speech was good enough, of course, that many ended up regretting, for the moment, that he isn't the nominee this time. If the delegates were freed up from their pledges to Romney, he might well be the nominee. We remember that back in the good old days most delegates weren't mere creatures of the presumptive nominee.
But of course it would be crazy to choose nominees based on convention speeches. Last time, after all, the delegates would surely have chosen Palin, who wowed us all with her marvelous audition. It turns out that was her only really good night of the campaign, and nobody much now wishes she had been the nominee, much less president.
Ryan's speech was as important as Palin's as an audition. Most Americans, after all, don't really know him. And he was selected, in part, because he's also such an attractive and energizing figure. There's some worry that this young man isn't ready for prime time. His delivery was good, not great. But, you know, there really was a lot of thoughtful substance in what he said, expressed in a way distinctive to him.
One thing Ryan had to prove to skeptical America—or at least skeptical ME—is that he's no (Ayn) Randian, no creature of the libertarian economists who are all about the selfish sovereign individual. And he did!
Let me call attention to the his speech's three-paragraph theoretical moment, where Ryan explains what his country is all about:
Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life.
We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.
Each of these great moral ideas is essential to democratic government – to the rule of law, to life in a humane and decent society. They are the moral creed of our country, as powerful in our time, as on the day of America’s founding. They are self-evident and unchanging, and sometimes, even presidents need reminding, that our rights come from nature and God, not from government.
There's a lot I want to say about each of these beautiful and deep paragraphs. But for now:
Notice that Ryan begins with the faith that all American believers share, the foundation of their "moral creed." Each person is unique and irreplaceable, a being endowed with irreducible personal significance as a creature of God.
So most basic is the responsibility we have to one another. The strong (contra Rand etc.) have a responsibility to the weak and vulnerable, and any society is judged most truly by the quality of its care. To what extent that care comes from government and to what extent from charity or altruism or families and friends or voluntary caregiving is a question. But the question has to be asked in a way that acknowledges our responsibility as relational beings who aren't intended "to face the world alone."
Responsibilities are prior to rights. But rights we do have as free and responsible beings with unique personal destinies. Those rights don't change and don't come from government but from "nature and God," the sources of our personal, purposeful being. We are free from government because of who we are, and the nature of the human person and so the limits on what government should do don't "evolve" over time.
We can now argue over to what extent Ryan's signature policies correspond to our "moral creed."
But we can't deny that this guy is morally serious and really knows stuff.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.