Friday, 20 December 2013


Aborto es sagrado = Abortion is sacred

  #MiBomboEsMio is a breaking trend on twitter and it is concerned with the recent abortion law controversy in Spain. The Spanish government are backing a new restrictive abortion law which will decrease the amount of time from birth which a mother can abort. Many are protesting against such a law as they believe that it is restricting the mothers autonomy.

  The current law dictates that before 14 weeks from birth abortion is legal, any cases of rape will allow abortion at any date and if the female is at danger abortion is valid. If the foetus has any deformities the allowed time is 22 weeks.

  Spanish conservatives who hold the majority of parliamentary seats believe that it should not be the mothers right to choose what happens to the baby... this would normally lead to abortion becoming eradicated but this would cause an outright upheaval. So the government are just cutting the time away... poco a poco. It must also be noted that these conservatives are mostly catholic, which can only mean they are pushing this law into activity because abortion contradicts the religious idea that life is sacred and only God can decide what happens to it.

  Well.. well... here lies the contention. Who has the right to decide what happens to a new life? Firstly we must rule out any religious arguments because by definition they rest on the assumption of the infallibility of the holy scripture and on the existence and supremacy of God, which according to modern empiricism does not exist.

  An embryo or any cellular structure before and after this stage of growth has its origins within the mother. We must not forget the role of the father or sperm provider. So the embryo is a product of the sexual relations of two human beings, if this sexual relation was forced then abortion by law is valid but if it was not forced then the two human beings must have had a choice. They exercised their autonomy to bring a new life into this world.

  In the eyes of the law, modern secularism, democracy and morality a person has responsibility for its own choices. How is a new life different? I believe that the government does not hold a right (unless over population is a huge problem which poses extreme problems to the quality of life of its inhabitants, which it does not in this case)* to decide when the right time is for abortion. I believe, under the argument that new life is a product of choices of two free individuals and such individuals must therefore take responsibility of such products, that the right to abortion must be given to the mother and father. As the mother carries this life within her womb and exerts more energy and time onto it, she has the overall power to decide to abort or not.

  Another argument we can use against this new restrictive law and any restrictive law on abortion is thus: If we give pregnant women the maximum amount of time to reflect and receive information on the implications of bringing a new life into this world or destroying it then they will be in a better position to make the right choice, for them and maybe for the government too. As strains on benefit systems, healthcare and social care might be overwhelmed with new unwanted babies or broken homes.

  Let's get rid of old conservative-religious notions on the nonsense that is 'the sanctity of life', let us realise (which most people have) that abortion is the right of the mothers and giving this right will benefit their welfare and potentially us too.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

What's So Great About Monaco?

   According to the economist pocket world in figures guide for 2014 Monaco has the highest GDP per head $171,465, it is the 248th largest territory in the world but has the highest population density compared to the rest of the world. Monaco also boasts as 2012 the highest life expectancy which is 89.7 years. This means that for a small country... it is extremely active, safe, healthy and wealthy. What makes it such a great little gem of a nation?

Tax Haven

  Monaco is a constitutional monarchy and as such is its own sovereign state. This enables it to sliver around some of the international tax standards. Monaco has literally no income tax and has extremely low taxes on capital and revenue for businesses. This makes the country a hotspot for the wealthy, who normally pay much higher income tax elsewhere, and a great place for companies and banks to base themselves. Formula 1 drivers from the likes of Jenson to Hamilton and tennis star Novak have moved to Monaco. As Monaco is a small country with very wealthy monarchs it would seem a good idea for it to become a tax haven and it has bought the nation a rich economy, diverse and unique residents and of course investors.

  Other countries such as Cyprus and Liechtenstein are tax havens. Liechtenstein has the second highest GDP per head behind Monaco.

Notice that whilst tax havens are great for small countries which have great climates, location relative to other rich countries and an easily manageable political system and population..... they are highly dangerous for bigger countries (with more people etc.) and tax havens anywhere could pose as economic threats to other countries. Large corporations who are based in tax havens could reduce large amounts of tax revenue for their home nations which could go towards national healthcare, transport or paying off debt. Any poor inhabitants will be at a greater disadvantage. If you are wealthy and like to avoid tax.... I guess Monaco is a superb location.

Beautiful, luxurious and unique scenery

     Being a tax haven is not enough to reel in huge foreign capital and big hit celebrities... like all big money players they like to work and live in style. Monaco has just that from one of the biggest glamorous property markets in the world to great leisure resorts and blissful landscapes. It also has squeaky clean streets!

The natural aura of Monaco tied in with the incoming wealth has really sparkled up the architecture and recreational zones. Who wouldn't want to drive their classic cars around this slick city?

Long life expectancy, great healthcare and no stress from income tax

 As you know from the introduction that the residents of Monaco are expected to live up to 89.7 years, this is 6 more than the Japanese life expectancy (which is pretty darn impressive). This is probably down to the Mediterranean lifestyle which easy going on the cardiovascular system, a diet consisting of vibrant fruits, olive oil, seeds, nuts and healthy meats. What is also a big factor is that most of the residents of Monaco are wealthy and money buys better private healthcare (Monaco has the highest hospital bed to resident ratio in the world), better gyms, personal trainers and more time to spend with the family in nice places.

The nation is also one of the safest in the world and the police are said to be extremely efficient in dealing with crime. This supposed fact could lead to a safer feeling for the residents which could reduce stress and other worries.

 Let's not forget the Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo casino which brings thousands of tourists each year and also big big money.

Monaco seems to be a very successful nation, but it nearly all rests on its tax haven status. As long as it has this status it will keep bringing in more wealthy residents.... which could lead to the nation becoming one big corporate island. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Physicists Find the Best Way for Males to Piss

Yes... really. Four physicists at Brigham Young University have been studying the fluid dynamics of liquid in a urine-like environment. They wanted to see which method of pissing produced the minimal amount of splash back. A purely respectable scientific task!

The team at Brigham set up experiments with a nozzle which ejected colored liquid, which mimicked the penis urinating, into a tank of water and filmed the process with high speed cameras. The footage revealed how much splash back was caused by different trajectories of the colored liquid.

They surmised that the best way to piss in the toilet was to do it sitting down, this is because shorter distances between the nozzle (or penis) and surface of water cause less splash back. Through careful analysis of the liquid they realized that it ( ~15cm from ejection point) formed into droplets before impact which caused more splash back. The formation of droplets by a jet of liquid is called the Plateau-Rayleigh instability and it is a phenomenon in fluid dynamics. This image briefly conceptualizes the physics:

where tiny perturbations in the fluid follow sine or cosine  growth functions, which grow differently... this chaotic behavior causes the disruption of flow and leads to the formation of droplets which are caused by surface tension. 

So basically follow these steps to pee the most efficiently:

  1. Pee sitting down on a toilet.
  2. If (1) is too degrading pee closer to the toilet whilst standing.
  3. If (2) is true, then also aim more downwards towards the back of the toilet. 
  4. Try to avoid Rayleigh instability.
  5. When peeing against urinal, pee close to it and against the most vertical wall of urinal.
And people say science doesn't help us in our everyday lives... pfft...

Monday, 9 December 2013

Would You Like Some More Indoctrination With Your Tea Sir?

Indoctrination causes some extreme views which are prejudiced and unjustified.
(Pictured - Member of the Westboro Church at a protest)

The Christian Education Europe also known as CEE is an organisation which provides a curriculum for teachers in catholic primary and secondary schools. The curriculum is derived from  Accelerated Christian Education (ACE)  which is a fundamentalist curriculum from Texas (Ain't no better christian fundamentalism than in Texas y'all). This is what the CEE says about the curriculum:

'Its philosophy is built on basic principles of the Word of God. Students are taught to see life from God’s point of view, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to walk in Godly wisdom and character. The A.C.E. curriculum is a comprehensive Bible-based programme that serves both the Christian school and the homeschool.' - CEE

 Taught to see life from 'God's point of view', this raises a lot of questions for example: how could Christians really objectively see life from God's point of view? God is apparently a supernatural, infinitely smart and good being so to comprehend any of its view of the world seems extremely dubious. They think the bible is 100% Gods word  and do not see the probable possibility that some crazy person or cult wrote it. Even if somehow they did gather some information about God's view of life, why would this be useful? We are finite humans and can only see life from our point of view, so surely learning another point of view from a completely odd being which is nothing like us would be a waste of time. It is. Obviously we are left with the simple fact that God's existence has no evidence towards it, so there could never be a point of view of God  and anyone claiming they know it is telling lies. This is just normal fundamentalist craziness, nothing makes sense rationally... they only want to proliferate the belief and love of God.

'To walk in Godly wisdom and character'. Now this is just hilarious. I can imagine them giving the children Greek God and Goddesses outfits and showing them how to walk like they have a bible shoved up their ass. Here is another citation to elaborate the Godly character theme:

'Godly character training is part of the A.C.E. learning experience, and it prepares students to welcome and accept challenges and future opportunities.' - CEE
 Of course acting like a supreme Godly being will prepare anyone in accepting any challenge and opportunity. They will think that they are invincible, immortal and infallible. However they will not, if they are completely indoctrinated into religious thinking, be able to adequately solve modern day problems in the workplace, in university or in general life which require critical, mathematical, scientific and a questioning mind. It is against our egalitarian principles to put any child at an unnecessary disadvantage. Education like the CEE curriculum does just that.

*What is even more devastating is that the government recognizes the ICCE (International Certificate of Christian Education) to be on par with the Cambridge International A-Level standard. This is simply wrong and we cannot equate the high standard of the A-level which teaches important mathematical, historical, literary and scientific skills which are useful in further education and the workplace with some forced learning of a fictitious book. CEE even imply indoctrination in their 'five laws of learning':

'The pupil must be controlled and motivated to assimilate, use, or experience the material.
Biblical principle: necessity for discipline, guidance, and responsible leadership: “Train up a child in the way he should go…”' - CEE (Third law of learning)

'The pupil must be controlled..... to... experience the material', ladies and gentleman I present to you a perfect definition of indoctrination. This sounds terrible for the pupils, wouldn't they rather enjoy a chemistry class with colorful, vibrant and smokey experiments or explore the historic character of Julius Caesar?  Instead they are forced to memorize and believe in the bible.

On the ICCE global website ( there is a page which boasts how many ICCE certified students went onto decent universities studying normal, useful subjects. However one must realize that the universities probably did not even look at the ICCE, they just cared about A-levels, work experience, UCAS points and general life skills.

I really want to see the universities, the government and students to explicitly declare the nonsense inherent in the CEE curriculum, the indoctrination that it uses which is extremely damaging to students abilities to think for themselves and the abolition of the ICCE or that it's worth jack shit.

Want to read more on the memetic war between science and fundamentalism? Click here

and here

*This is partly wrong i.e. the ICEE is not on par to the A-level but aims to surpass it (even worse) a correction by the website Leavingfundamentalism is given in the comment section.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Mourning: Why has it evolved? What are the selfish incentives for mourning on the internet?

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” 
― William ShakespeareMacbeth

   Very recently Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela died. This caused a great number of people to mourn on social networking sites etc. this sparked a question in my mind: Why the hell are these people mourning about Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela as if they were closely genetically related.... ? My view of biological behavior i.e. the selfish gene theory was in a sense being challenged because I could not immediately explain this phenomenon in terms of this theory... so I had to think until i could explain the phenomenon or I would have to give up on my view. After a few minutes I worked out some reasonable explanations in terms of the theory and I will  therefore share it with you. First as always, we define our key word and begin from the general case.

Why has it evolved?

Mourning is the expression of sorrow for another organisms death. It is an explicit behavior shown in many of our evolutionary ancestors and animals including ourselves. Here are some video examples of other animals showing symptoms of mourning or denial of the death of a close one:

Obviously different animals have different ways of expressing mourning based on their physiology and communication methods, but the capacity to experience emotional distress towards the death of a close relative etc. has strong evolutionary roots.

With all characteristics and behaviors of a living organism we ask the same question: what benefits are there to the organisms ability to further its genes to future generations? This is because any characteristic and behavior must have survived natural selection i.e. if it was a detriment to the organisms ability to pass on its genetic material over time such genetic material will gradually vanish from the gene pool.

When we observe mourning in any organism including ourselves there doesn't seem to be any direct benefit. When organisms mourn they expend energy (crying, making sounds, spending days carrying or looking after dead companions (like in the baboon video))... energy that could have been saved for finding food, mating or avoiding direct dangers which seem more important factors in an organisms ability to pass on genes. To an organism energy efficiency is everything. Also the death of a relative or companion would not directly impinge the ability of mating or general survival of the mourners. This is where thinking directly is plain wrong and quite naive, we must remember that nature is extremely meticulous and natural selection works in the crams and holes of life. So we must start thinking about indirect consequences. This is where the fun begins.

The mourning of a genetic relative actually makes sense because that relative shares your genes and because it has deceased it can no longer pass on its genes to the future. So the overall genetic material being passed down to the next generation has decreased. This is bad for the genes. For the genes to prevent this from happening they need to program the organism in which they inhabit to experience some sort of pain when seeing a deceased relative. As organisms are programmed to avoid pain and the causes thereof they will try and avoid the death of relatives, this will ensure that there is an increased chance of more of the same genetic material being passed down to the next generation. Obviously the genes don't just liberally program or think at will, natural selection (over a grand expanse of time) will select genes which tend towards instructing the organism to behave this way... as those that don't instruct this way or do the opposite will decrease the chances of genes being passed down the generations and therefore will die off.

There are also more possible benefits for example mourning for a close relative could be sexually advantageous. Two organisms who recognize one another or just one of them to be mourning may realize that if they mate with the mourner this could mean that the mourner will go an extra step further in protecting their young as they will want to avoid their deaths (through the emotional pain mechanism). Mourning could also be a reminder to the organism that death is bad. Really fucking bad. Death is akin to GAME OVER in biological terms as the organism is no longer surviving which means... no more reproduction (to pass on genes), no more looking after relatives (which pass on genes) and doing anything to pass on more genes which is the sole purpose of its existence. So anything to do with Death is greatly emotionally exaggerated. This could explain why mourning is so strong... as it is about avoiding the obliteration of genetic material.

However in more complex animals with slightly higher intelligence we witness the mourning of organisms of the same species but who are not close relatives at all. What benefits do these organisms have by mourning then? Well there are numerous possibilities. For instance in a group of animals, a loss could mean one less animal to protect the group from predators or one less to fetch food for the group. The strength of the mourning, I presume, will be proportional to the benefit the deceased had on the individuals survival and proliferation of genetic material chances. So the mourning of unrelated organisms who were of some benefit to the group and hence the individual will be less strong than mourning of relatives. 

Another promising idea which could explain the mourning of unrelated organisms is that the mourning is simply a by product of the mechanism for mourning relatives. The organism will mourn anything that resembles a relative. By resemblance I do not necessarily mean physically but emotionally. If a bird raises a cuckoo egg which is not of its own, the cuckoo egg resembles a child of the host. When it hatches it will look nothing like the host but the host will emotionally associate the  cuckoo as its own. When the cuckoo dies early the host will mourn as if it was it's own. In a pack of elephants it has been recorded that they mourn deaths of baby elephants even when not related to them, this means they have some emotional comprehension of the actual mothers grievance. In humans too, we build emotional attachments to friends which then go on to resemble relatives and when they die we mourn them as a consequence of such resemblance. This idea can be tested and observed in real life, it is possible to get animals to live with others completely unrelated but of the same species and then  get another to live with only related  and compare the extent of mourning between the two cases. Here is an elephant who mourned a dog (notice they say 'maternal instinct' i.e. the dog emotionally, not physically, resembled a baby elephant):

And a very astute ape mourns a kitten:

What are the selfish incentives for mourning on the internet?

-The death of Mandela is a top trend on twitter and many facebook users are showing their sorrow. -Picture BBC

  So we have walked through some basic reasons as to why mourning could be advantageous to a living organism. With the global rise of social networking, the cyber-society where people house the details of their lives on websites, an influx of rich human behavioral phenomena comes our way to investigate. Many sites show streams of 'RIP' and 'Will be missed so much' messages about recent ( and normally instantaneously known) celebrity deaths. Why is this happening? I mean this not in a sinister to way but purely in a scientific way...  what biological power is forcing huge amounts of people to mourn on social networking sites about people who are well known but have no personal ties to them? Could there be some, if any, hidden selfish reasons for people to mourn on social networks?

One obvious reason is that they are mourning because the said dead celebrity or person has bought them wisdom, happiness, laughter, technology, books, knowledge, music etc. which has changed their lives in a positive way. They are mourning because now that the said celebrity is dead, they will no longer be able to produce potential happiness for the individual. Here are some examples to help validate my reasoning:

These are just two examples in which the work, talent or gift which made the celebrity famous are highlighted in the mourning instead of their personal attributes. This is because people have engaged with these celebrities through what made them famous, Jackson's music may have touched the hearts of millions and Steve jobs innovations have changed how people interact with technology. You will witness this nearly everywhere, which makes sense as those mourning them will now have to cope without the benefits they received from these well known people.

One could argue that people mourn on social networking  sites solely to conform. They may not even know who the deceased is and what they have contributed to society but they copy their fellow networkers in mourning. On twitter I have seen people who have openly admitted to not knowing too much about whoever that has died but then write how much they will miss them. These people will gain some social acknowledgement... through likes or followers.. and that is a selfish incentive to 'mourn'... they become more known in the cyber-society in which popularity is a measure of success.

Another plausible reason (in conjunction or instead of the others) is that we humans like to aid each other in mourning. We may feel sorrow for the death of a great human and just like if our relative died our friends and family comfort us social networks could also be the place to comfort and reassure one another. On my facebook and maybe on yours too, people mourn over their own relatives on facebook! I think this to get people to comfort them... and there is no reason why they shouldn't. One must not forget this is a selfish incentive. Mourning is not altruistic because obviously you cannot give anything to the dead for some future repayment or other benefits, so that is why I was looking for possible selfish reasons.

Still though... it is interesting to see how our strong biological roots and fears still force themselves through the most modern technology.

 This opens another question which I will leave with you to ponder... can machines mourn with us? 

An Aside

I was walking to the gym in Swansea late one evening and I was listening to one of my favorite audiobooks 'Genius: The life and times of Richard Feynman by James Gleick'. Something was different that evening because it was the last chapter of the book and I had gotten to know Feynman (in other audiobooks etc.) quite well. The chapter was winding up towards his death and i was beginning to feel quite emotional. The way Gleick told the story of Feynman was simply beautiful and hearing the last words of the book which described the last dying moments of Feynman actually made me cry. I have to be honest here I rarely cry. I do not know why I did. But I was mourning his death even though he died in 1988. He as character and scientist shaped my own thinking quite a bit and he was a complete honest, eccentric and great scientist that I just felt sad that he could not still be alive doing his crazy life stories and wonderful physics right now. I walked into an alleyway until i could regroup myself and tried to lift serious amounts of weights to combat my irrational moment of emotion. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

An Honorable Mention: Frederick Sanger

"Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature"
-Michael Faraday-

Frederick Sanger, two time Nobel laureate in Chemistry, died November 19th 2013 at the age of 95. 

This modest genius revealed some very fundamental secrets about biological life. Dr. Sanger worked out the chemical structure of proteins during his work with insulin, the biological field knew that amino acids were the basis for protein structure but did not consider the significance of the ordering of them. Sanger explored the significance of the orders of amino acids and with his ingenuity worked out the complete structure of proteins.

Proteins are important molecules and are abundant in any living organism. They are responsible for building cellular structures, maintaining them and protecting them from viruses (for example the protein immunoglobulin which is an antibody). Sanger's work sparked great movement in medical research, genetic research and the whole of biology. This won him his first Nobel prize in Chemistry.

The work on the chemical structure of proteins and ordering of amino acids led Sanger to the question of how the information in DNA constructs proteins. He developed one of the first methods in DNA sequencing, which is the process that determines the ordering of nucleotides in a DNA strand.

DNA sequencing allows biologists to probe further into the nature of genes, how they are sequenced in the body and possibly when they will become activated. This obviously has huge importance medically as biologists can identify which clusters of genes cause certain affects in the living organism and the possibility of  interfering for the benefit of the organism. Sequencing is a very common research technique used in institutions who are keen to understand the properties and mechanisms of genes and proteins.

His body is undergoing decomposition and centuries later his corpse will be nothing but bones. 
However his contribution to science and the understanding of nature will survive far into the future.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Iran away from Uranium

   Iran is experiencing; inflation rates of up to 36%, high unemployment and a disastrous economic situation that has been greatly influenced by UN sanctions on its trading liberties, banks and uranium enrichment programs. These sanctions are direct punishments for Iran's breaching of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for which it is a signatory. It has been enriching uranium to percentages of purity of worrying levels and the instruments of purification i.e. centrifuges has increased, this plus the dishonesty and shadiness (since 2003) of Iran's nuclear program have worried world powers hence the UN decided to sanction Iran.

   Why would Iran try and build capable and immediate nuclear warheads? One obvious reason is its relationship with Israel which is far from peaceful. Iran is supposedly funding Hezbollah which is an extreme group, even considered as a terrorist organization by the US, with intentions of destroying Israel and those who... as you guessed... contradict their religious dogma.

Some estimates of Iran's aid (to Hezbollah) are as high as $200-million annually. - Washington Post
 Both nations have blamed one another for acts of terrorism in the past, for example Israel blamed Iran for attacks on Israeli targets in India, Thailand and Georgia. In one of these attacks the wife of an Israeli diplomat was extremely injured in New Delhi. The commander of the IRGC Mohammed Ali Jafari was quoted:

“If [Israelis] start something, they will be destroyed and it will be the end of the story for them,” Jafari said, according to ISNA.

However I feel that Iran is the bully in this conflict and its former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never recognized Israel as a legitimate state. He was quoted,

"... the regime that occupies Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time"' According to the Gaurdian.

He greatly encouraged the enrichment and mining of uranium for a nuclear program which one could only guess as to defend or arm itself against Israel and all of its allies, which includes the US. Iran have only one active nuclear reactor (the Busher I) which was activated in 2010, so it would not make sense to enrich uranium above the standard reactor purity and to keep mining for i furiously if they had peaceful intentions. The political situation of Iran and their poor nuclear energy program hints at malicious intentions.

     A glimmer of hope can be seen for this unstable country as the people of Iran have chosen a new president Hassan Rouhani, who has suggested that his aims for Iran are to improve the economy by removing the crippling UN sanctions and to improve the international perceptions and relations of Iran.
It would be too much to halt Iran's enrichment program, so Mr. Rouhani will simply compromise with the future permanent UN deal. I can only presume that Rouhani is not a complete brain-dead-anti-semetic-Israeli hater like the former president but one who wishes to form mutual trust with world powers. Rouhani must create more transparency in Iran's nuclear programs and halt intense nuclear activity until assurance is given to the US that Iran is not going to use weapons for international bribery and to blow everyone up.

   The interim deal has been established between Iran and the world powers which is a temporary contract of 6 months, which should be implemented in order for more detailed talks to continue on a legit long term deal. This deal if Iran willingly accepts would be a great move in the right direction and the only positive outcome from on-off meetings for about ten years. Here is a summary of the deal;

Iran's Responsibility

  • Halt enrichment of uranium above 5% purity. (Uranium enriched to 3.5-5% can be used for nuclear power reactors, 20% for nuclear medicines and 90% for a nuclear bomb.)
  • "Neutralise" its stockpile of near-20%-enriched uranium, either by diluting it to less than 5% or converting it to a form which cannot be further enriched
  • Not install any more centrifuges (the machines used to enrich uranium)
  • Leave half to three-quarters of centrifuges installed in Natanz and Fordo enrichment facilities inoperable 
  • Not build any more enrichment facilities
  • Not increase its stockpile of 3.5% low-enriched uranium
  • Halt work on the construction of its heavy-water reactor at Arak, not attempt to produce plutonium there (an alternative to highly enriched uranium used for an atomic weapon)
  • Provide daily access to Natanz and Fordo sites to IAEA inspectors and access to other facilities, mines and mills
  • Provide "long-sought" information on the Arak reactor and other data
The World Powers Responsibility:

  • Provide "limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible [sanctions] relief".
  • Not impose further nuclear-related sanctions if Iran meets its commitments
  • Suspend certain sanctions on trade in gold and precious metals, Iran's automotive sector, and its petrochemical exports
  • Licence safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines
  • Transfer $4.2bn (£2.6bn) to Iran in installments from sales of its oil (BBC NEWS)
   This deal allows Iran to breathe economically and would shed good light on the new president, both Iran and the outside world would prefer a long term agreement resembling this then any military conflict which could really devastate Iran and potentially effect related terrorist groups if any. 

   I cannot help but feel that nuclear weapons and programs have become a front for conflicting nations, a sort of inflated muscle which scares nations into not aggravating them, destroying them or abusing their territory. However... with the east and Islam being unstable at this time with many regimes being overturned, extremism and radicalism everywhere and the imminent threat of terrorism one must keep a close eye on any development of potential weapons. I completely agree on how the US and the UN are acting on Iran and I also completely agree on the decommissioning of all weapon grade nuclear material. Nuclear war leads to only destruction... if one nation does somehow launch an attack (like North korea say) they would destroy the target but the rest of the world would simply annihilate North Korea. It is MAD... no really it is...  mutually assured destruction...  I do not live in fear of nuclear strikes because if it happens... I die and everyone else will too and if that is true no one would take part. Just to be sure... we have to monitor the hell out of suspicious countries so that they do not beat any other country to the punch.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Some of My Experiences With Obsession

--This article is not in the usual style in which I normally write nor does it contain any of my usual analysis of current affairs or science. It is merely a personal account of my experiences with obsession which I felt like writing about.--


"You become what you think about all day long" 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

   When I was about 9 or 10 I read a book about the great renaissance painter and sculptor Michelangelo in the school library, the forms of the sculptures pictured in the book astounded me. I was only young so i didn't know any artistic concepts or techniques so I was just emotionally captivated by them. This book and the general visual impression of things gradually guided me towards appreciating form. I also remember taking great care and focus in any lesson which consisted of drawing, this  included drawing shapes and geometric figures in mathematics and science classes. I would come home from school, sit in my room and just draw the objects in my room. I would enjoy looking at objects at different angles and studying how light reflected from objects and how shadows are made. After every picture I would run downstairs to my parents and show them my drawings, I always asked for an honest critique and they always pointed out one improvement I could make. I would then run upstairs and think about what they have said and try (with many attempts) to make my drawings more realistic. I didn't really learn much from art class at school because they were learning extremely basic stuff, so I would literally keep trying different things with my pencil in order to make my drawings better. As I got older I still kept drawing but my subjects became more complicated... for example I attempted to copy the great works of Michelangelo, Picasso, Da Vinci, Raphael and Rembrandt etc. and I always felt this bond with the piece of art. Due to this continual need to keep improving my drawings, some isolation and this emotional bond i had with the pencil and the subject I ended up really becoming obsessed.
   When I reached mature art classes in secondary school I knew my skills were far superior than my classmates but I never wanted to stop at my level, I always felt dissatisfied in myself and in my ability. When the teacher complimented my work I was very confused and slightly angry... I didn't see a good piece of work I only saw the faults. I loved the process but most of the time I was dissatisfied with the outcome. I was also obsessed to the point that if I had not drawn in a few days I felt like my ability was eroding away, I would worry that I wouldn't be able to draw again.. which is irrational... but i didn't know this at the time.            The obsession really came to a sharp peak when I was sixteen...  I was entering some artwork for a semi-professional art competition which was aimed at people who work as artists and have spent their whole lives doing it. So to me this was a great challenge and I needed a great picture. Before I knew about the competition I had fallen in love with the medium of charcoal, I loved how i could manipulate it on paper and the sensation of touching it with my hands... it was a very sensory medium and I enjoyed it. So I was getting pretty competent at using it. So I knew the artwork would be in charcoal... I looked all on the internet for portraits (as portraits were deemed my best) and I found a great portrait of Einstein, Frankenstein and an old woman pictured in the national geographic. When I was drawing these portraits I did so for at least 3 days straight, i remember the pains in my knees from the position I was in and my hands became temporarily black from charcoal. I found it hard to leave them for dinner and it seemed I was attached to them. The crazy thing is I can remember visually everything around me when I did these pictures and every step I took and even the music I was listening too..... drawing these pictures was such a vivid experience. I had to hand them in and I found it hard to let go, but I was excited at the prospect of seeing my work in a real gallery and in a real competition.
    The wait for the awards evening was arduous, but when it came I was excited and went with my mother and grandmother to the gallery. We were greeted with champagne and nibbles etc. I looked around and wasn't impressed with the entries including mine but I was sure that I wouldn't win as I was the youngest there by 10 years. The first award went to a woman who I don't remember but I remember the name of the picture... it was 'rolling hills' and it was green and was an abstract piece. The second award was an award for artists under 25... there was a lot of university art students who entered pieces so i was sure not to win.... but I did. I won £100 pounds and I was on the front page of a newspaper with the other winner. It was at this time I realized I could draw well and my obsession after this was never as vivid, although still existent. Here was the entries that I won with:

As I changed schools to do my A-levels my obsession for Art stopped completely, I enjoyed it but I never felt the compulsive desire to do it everyday or continually do the same picture over and over again. I feel this is due to my change in what I wanted in life. I have always felt the desire to work in a field that was useful and conducive to society, art couldn't fulfill this criteria... as I came to understand that art doesn't generate useful truths about the world... when it comes down to it it really is just a form of entertainment. I remember that after this realization I went through a period of great sadness, but reflecting back on it it's because I didn't replace my obsession. I need to have something which I think about and do nearly everyday and something which I could keep getting better and better at. 
   I took physics A-level in the first year and loved it, I always loved science and was generally good at it but I really began to absorb physics that year. I read around the subject, the history of it... the great minds that pioneered it and how things could be explained using physics. I found out that everyone else was taking Mathematics A-level but I wasn't and I realized that my mathematics was quite naive and clumsy. I always thought mathematics was just useful and I never really did any or think about it outside of my old classes. 
But as I wanted to become better at physics I had to really learn and absorb mathematics, so I bought many books on basic algebra, linear geometry and other books and began to teach myself mathematics. The experience of self teaching was completely different to when I learned it before, everything was much easier to understand... all the mathematics became related and it made logical sense. I began to really love learning mathematics on my own and using it in physics. I read a biography of Isaac Newton by James Gleick and realized how much mathematics meant to him and how obsessed he was with it, he seemed to find beauty and solace in mathematics but I couldn't understand why. As I am in my third year of physics now and have learnt many mathematics I can now understand why and it's a great sensation to see the world in a mathematical way and to do mathematics. I entered in Mathematics in the second year of my A-levels and I started to befriend some of my classmates, they knew I hadn't done much mathematics before and they ended up becoming confused when I used to talk about it all the time or ask them questions about it. They ended up telling me that I was just talking about it to fit in, but what they didn't know is that I was becoming obsessed by it and I still am.
    During this time however, I started to become extremely isolated and I used to read a lot of books... looking back on it I can admit it was very weird but I literally changed my whole worldview and in a sense my person in about a year and a half. It was a very intense time for me as I had an interview for Cambridge, school duties and a lot of physics, maths and reading to do just to satisfy my mind. I ended up going through depression or some form of it, because I remember not feeling happy for some great time and feeling extremely paranoid about losing my ability and not being smart enough for my own satisfaction. I lost a lot of weight after I found out I didn't get into Cambridge and as my obsession with perfection really took over. My parents told me that I was extremely aggressive towards them and literally everyone that came across me. This was the lowest I have ever been in my life. I went to the GP who advised some anti-depressants and this really shocked me, I asked myself... 'How have you got to this position, How in darn names have you ended up in this room... what am I doing'. I refused the drugs and after that day I made a great effort to stop my irrational behaviors, it took a while obviously but I got better. I still was obsessed with physics, reading and mathematics but not as crazy as before and I started going to the gym which I thought would help me physically and mentally. It did, I got a lot better and I was glad I didn't stay depressed for a long time. I came across a book called 'language,truth and logic' by A.J Ayer which was about logical positivism, the philosophical view that metaphysical statements are meaningless. It was written so confidently, clearly and the logic was simple and sharp that it made an impression on how I thought. The God Delusion by Dawkins also refreshed and updated my thinking. 
      At the present I have intense periods of isolation where I really become absorbed in my obsessions, such as physics. I also have a new obsession about gaining muscle and not becoming skinny (which may have been caused by my thinness during my depressive state) and this had turned into some form of muscle dysmophia as I actually think I am skinny all the time even though i might be gaining weight and muscle. Last year this was extreme as I used to eat nearly every hour and I couldn't sleep sometimes if i didn't go to the gym that day. As I have been in Spain I had a month or so out of the gym and I feel completely dead, so  my obsession has once again taken over me. However I will never let my perfectionism put me in a unhealthy situation... this is the control I have learnt since my last experience... I have become more resilient.

    Most Psychologists deem perfectionism and obsession  to be an illness of some sort, however I cannot live without being obsessed with something that will better me as a person either physically or mentally. All that I have accomplished albeit not much has been due to my obsessive nature. I don't think I could live without becoming deeply and dangerously absorbed in something.