12:30 PM GMT, March 29
The talk and powerpoint were finished Monday evening, before this other stuff hit. There is still no telling what will happen next week. Yours truly will be at the podium whether I am pulled from the schedule or not. Will someone try to forcibly remove the speaker? Will there be a scuffle? Will the press be watching? Is this the most exciting science blog or what?
I wish to re-emphasise that I mean no harm to anyone. After showing early promise in maths, I was accepted to the world's best-known physics department just after turning 16. After not being allowed to finish there, I attended another university across the Bay. People associated with the first university did their best to get me removed or prevented from speaking.
I have decided to finish up with a tropical research university, a place so remote that most people haven't heard of it. It is peaceful, close to coral reefs, and far removed from the cutthroat atmosphere of Berkeley and Stanford. As was tried in 2004, someone has stalked the writer and pulled papers from arxiv. Now he has reached across the ocean to stop a talk.
I wish to thank Kea and others who have tried to help me post. Someone has under-estimated my hacking skills. The problem has been isolated to one person fingering his computer at 00:51 in the morning New York time. He confesses to pulling papers from arxiv due to prejudice. When his email went across the Atlantic, conference organisers considered it the word of Cornell.
This person's bio page is very interesting. He is an avowed Marxist-Leninist, admires Noam Chomsky, and wishes to see the US violently overthrown. Mahndisa and Lubos, you would love to hear about this guy. "There must be a social contract between a scientist and his syndic," he writes, "and an exit penalty for kamikaze runs outside this setting." People like him wish to control what you hear and think. Does he represent Cornell University?
UPDATE: Here for posterity is this character's bio page
This is a brief personal introduction. An abridged professional curriculum vitae may be found here.
My picture gallery is also available through this link.
Marxism/Leninism and socialist philosophy: We're returning rapidly to the era of giant monopolies and robber-baron owners. The last time this happened, in the 1880-1920 period, the "solution," a mere band-aid, required mass action by labor, inspired leadership by strong nation-states, and suppression of an entire activist movement. This time it won't be so "pretty." The nation-state is gone as an entity independent of capital, capital itself is more fluid than it has ever been before ($6 trillion in real goods traded internationally in 1993, $50 trillion in capital traded internationally in that year), and the efficiencies of production (21% of USA population in manufacturing now vs. 60% in 1920) means that fewer scabs can keep the factories open, pitting more and more people against each other. I concur with Wallerstein's prediction for an unstable "quiet before the storm" lasting another decade or two, and then the deluge. Quite frankly, I don't think we'll deal with it very well here (I recall the collapse of Weimar). In Europe, with a social-democratic tradition, I think things (this time) will go better. Will they light the way out?
I wrote the above paragraph in the 1990s. As of 2007 the police state is well underway, thanks to the connivance of both major political parties. I urge people to study the work of the Socialist Equality Party and support its candidates. I do.
Some favorite things I've read:
The Case of Comrade Tulayev , by Victor Serge, Journeyman press, 345 Archway Road, London N65AA (try finding this in your local bookstore - good luck!) Serge was one of the most perceptive social writers of our century, combining Dreiser's monumentality of form with a precision of language and miniaturist bent that gives him the scope to plumb both the interior and exterior of the political upheavals of the early century. Here's a brief excerpt.
The World Socialist Web Site, the most vital daily source of news and penetrating analysis now available on the web.
International Socialism, Once great, now rather comprador with a tendency to grasp somewhat desperately at entryism, though some authors are still worth reading.
Perry Anderson's thin volume In the Tracts of Historical Materialism, an astounding reposte to the preposterous claims of structuralism and its descendents to have superseded Marxian analysis. Anderson has since followed those he mocked into obscurantism, but at his peak he was well worth reading.
Education: I've tried to unbuild walls between scientists and their communities. Years ago, I formed an astronomy outreach organization structured along the lines of an amateur club. At its peak, my colleagues and I had a structure for involving the astronomically curious in our work outside the formal settings of a classroom. We further used the interest of our 250 participants to reach out to visitors at most of the state parks of Georgia and involved tens of thousands of people annually in a personal astronomy experience. Sadly, the experiment of "hyper-democracy" in this organization made it unstable to manipulation by unscrupulous amateurs with no vested interest in astronomy per se, and eventually led to the suspension of our support for the group. I'm convinced now that our educational system at large needs to be reformed along syndicalist lines, perhaps one of my main areas of rapport with our distinguished social critic and theorist Noam Chomsky. As in a society at large, science flourishes within professional societies and collectives of scholars and students when its progress is directed by those with a stake in it. There must be a social contract between a scientist and his syndic, and an exit penalty for kamikaze runs outside this setting (dissension within a syndic is fine, no Lysenkoism here, but the Edward Tellers and Pons and Fleischmanns of the world who operate outside the morality of their colleagues must earn their recompense).