11 February 2006

For my writer friends, a Washington Post column about teaching writing to Inuit women in northern Canada.

[Writing] is for the eagle. It's for giving the eagle wings. It's also for us, who watch it fly.

Posted 11:25 PM

10 February 2006

Today in Newsday, an editor at Beirut's Daily Star compares violent protests over the now-infamous Danish cartoons to soccer hooliganism, both being the actions of a few criminal thugs.

Fair enough. But the author then goes on to patiently explain that the protests are happening because "[Publication of the cartoons] was coupled with European political and press leaders flat-out telling the Islamic world that Western freedom of press was a higher moral value and a greater political priority than Muslims' concern that their leading prophet not be subjected to blasphemy and insult."

Um, yeah. I think we all get that part. The problem is that, in the Western view, Muhammed is not special. Neither is Christ or the Virgin Mary (Warning: links to potentially offensive art.), or any other prophet. Having spent a hundred years, more or less, fighting about which religion was worthy of respect, the West has decided that no religion is entitled to impose itself on non-believers.

Skirmishes are still going on, with Christian fundamentalists making essentially the same arguments that Islamic fundamentalists do, but the war is over. We in the West like it that way. Call it cultural chauvinism if you like, but we think our approach has been pretty successful in raising standards of living, allowing diverse populations to coexist, etc. Rather than arguing about whether the West is sufficiently respectful, perhaps other traditions should work toward goals that are worthy of respect?

Posted 10:26 AM

06 February 2006

You discover all sorts of fascinating trivia while doing research. For example, what happened to the Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck when Germany invaded Denmark during World War II? Chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold medals in aqua regia and left the solution on a shelf at the Niels Bohr Institute. After the war, he precipitated the gold out of solution, and the Nobel Society used it to recast the medals.

Aqua regia is one of the only reagents able to dissolve platinum, which is why I was interested in it. Platinum and iridium are potential electrode materials for ferroelectric memory devices.

Posted 04:59 PM

You know, it's really great to hear that the world's predominantly Muslim countries are in such great shape. They have so few problems with poverty, education, health care, and official corruption that all their citizens and religious leaders can think of to get upset about are a few offensive cartoons.

Posted 08:55 AM


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