Master piece van Theo Zantman…..

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Did arrive yesterday at our address in Thailand from Dutch painter Theo Zantman on Bali. Famous artist, rich Asiatic business people buying his painting as investment. Not in my case I am a friend end admirer from his work.



The 100 best nonfiction books: No 61 – On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)

 On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)

This fine, lucid writer captured the mood of the time with this spirited assertion of the English individual’s rights
John Stuart Mill: philosopher, author and social reformer, c1858
 John Stuart Mill: philosopher, author and social reformer, c1858. Photograph: Getty Images

“Freedom”, in the Anglo-American literary tradition, is a word that excites a visceral response. From Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence, the idea of “liberty” has inspired reverence, passion, and eloquence. It is a touchstone, with dangerous even revolutionary connotations, as Shakespeare understood. In Act II, scene II of The Tempest, there’s a moment when Caliban, almost rapping, expresses a wild inarticulate desire for liberation:

’Ban ’Ban Ca–Caliban
Has a new master – Get a new man!
Freedom, high-day! High-day, freedom! Freedom, high-day, freedom!

And so, when John Stuart Mill addressed the idea of the free and sovereign individual in On Liberty, he was plugging into a current of English thought with deep and ancient connections. More immediately, he was picking up from Tom Paine, Adam Smith and William Godwin. But he had a different philosophical agenda from his predecessors. Those traditions, the popular and the radical, celebrated something perilously close to a state of nature. Mill’s more sober purpose was to transform the idea of liberty into a philosophically respectable theory and express it in a form that could co-exist with Victorian culture and society, animating the body politic, but not upsetting it:Read more

“The subject of this essay is not the so-called ‘liberty of the will’, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of philosophical necessity; but civil, or social liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual.”

There was no one better suited to this challenge than JS Mill. After the extraordinary education described in his Autobiography, he had emerged as the widely respected and leading philosopher/economist of his age. Years later, looking back, the Tory prime minister Arthur Balfour recalled that, during his student days at Cambridge, “Mill possessed an authority in the English universities comparable to that wielded in the Middle Ages by Aristotle.”

On Liberty was also inspired by Mill’s peculiar personal situation. Rejecting the father who had subjected him to a bizarre upbringing, the subject of his Autobiography, he had formed “a perfect friendship” with Harriet Taylor, a married woman with advanced “bohemian” ideas about love, marriage and divorce. For 20 years, until Mr Taylor died in 1849, Mill and his mistress could not marry. Once they were free to tie the knot, they withdrew to the suburbs to commune with a life of intense privacy, cut off from convention and conformity, and increasingly obsessed with intimations of mortality. Mill was explicit about these thoughts as an inspiration for On Liberty: “We have got a power of which we must try to make good use during the few years of life we have left. The more I think of the plan of a volume on Liberty, the more likely it seems to me that it will be read and make a sensation.”

He was pitching the idea of the book at an exalted level, and even claimed, in a nod to Gibbon’s account of his decision to write The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, that he had first conceived it as he was “mounting the steps of the Capitol”. In the end, however, it was indeed overshadowed by mortality. Harriet Taylor died in 1858. Within weeks of her death, Mill overcame the anxieties he nurtured about so great a subject, delivered his manuscript to the publisher, and the book appeared the following February, as both a memorial and an intellectual landmark.

In the English literary tradition, 1859 is an annus mirabilis. As well as On the Origin of Species, No 60 in this series, this was the year that saw the publication of that Victorian classic, Self-Help by Samuel Smiles, and also A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. On Liberty joins these titles as a work of exquisite prose (Mill is a fine, lucid writer) advancing “one very simple principle”, an idea he expresses thus:

That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

What follows is a complex elaboration of this “very simple principle” in various spheres – thought, discussion, action – in which Mill establishes that the liberty of the individual should be absolute so long as he or she does not interfere with other individuals:

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant . . . Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

This freedom, inevitably, has to be qualified, to preserve civil concord. At the same, as a profound individualist, Mill never ceases to champion the sovereignty of the free man, who must never become a wage-slave, or mere cog in an industrial machine:

It really is of importance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it. Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance surely is man himself. Supposing it were possible to get houses built, corn grown, battles fought, causes tried, and even churches erected and prayers said, by machinery – by automatons in human form – it would be a considerable loss to exchange for these automatons even the men and women who at present inhabit the more civilised parts of the world, and who assuredly are but starved specimens of what nature can and will produce.

On Liberty articulates Mill’s adamant belief in the importance of humanity:

Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.

All of this leads to Mill’s concluding summary: a classic British statement about the role of the state.

The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes – will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything will in the end avail it nothing.

A decade after the appearance of On Liberty, Matthew Arnold published Culture and Anarchy (No 59 in this series), which some have seen as “a powerful indictment” of Mill’s doctrine. Arnold querulously suggested that “doing as one likes” was a charter for the Englishman’s right “to march where he likes, enter where he likes, hoot as he likes, threaten as he likes, smash as he likes.” This was the beginning of a Victorian backlash to Mill’s spirited and measured assertion of the English individual’s rights. It’s an argument that continues, in very different language, to this day.

A signature sentence
“Such being the reasons which make it imperative that human beings should be free to form opinions, and to express their opinions without reserve; and such the baneful consequences to the intellectual, and through that to the moral nature of man, unless this liberty is either conceded, or asserted in spite of prohibition; let us next examine whether the same reasons do not require that men should be free to act upon their opinions – to carry these out in their lives without hindrance, either physical or moral, from their fellow men, so long as it is at their own risk and peril.”

Three to compare
John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689)
Jeremy Bentham: Chrestomathia (1816)
John Stuart Mill: Autobiography (1873)

 On Liberty by John Stuart Mill is available from Penguin (£4.99). To order a copy for £4.24, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

New York Times Publisher Rebuts Trump’s Account of Private Meeting

President Trump said on Twitter that he and A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump on Sunday disclosed details of a private meeting he had with the publisher of The New York Times, A. G. Sulzberger, and Mr. Sulzberger flatly disputed the president’s characterization of an exchange they had about threats to journalism.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he and Mr. Sulzberger had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”

In a five-paragraph statement issued two hours after the tweet, Mr. Sulzberger said he had accepted Mr. Trump’s invitation for the July 20 meeting mainly to raise his concerns about his “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”

“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” said Mr. Sulzberger, who became publisher of The Times on Jan. 1.


“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people,’” Mr. Sulzberger continued. “I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

This is particularly true overseas, Mr. Sulzberger said, where governments are using Mr. Trump’s words as a pretext to crack down on journalists. He said he warned the president that his attacks were “putting lives at risk” and “undermining the democratic ideals of our nation.”

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Mr. Trump, in his tweet, described the meeting with Mr. Sulzberger as “very good and interesting.” But in referring to the phrase “enemy of the people,” he did not make clear that he himself began using that label about the press during his first year in office.

He has continued to assail the news media at rallies and even at more formal presidential events, encouraging his audiences to chant “CNN sucks!” and to vent their anger at the reporters assembled in the back.

Speaking to veterans in Kansas City, Mo., last week, Mr. Trump said: “Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” As members of the crowd booed and hissed at the press corps, he added, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”


The president invited Mr. Sulzberger to the Oval Office earlier this month, according to The Times, continuing a tradition of meetings between presidents and the paper’s publishers. James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The Times, accompanied Mr. Sulzberger to the meeting.

Mr. Sulzberger had a different account of his meeting with Mr. Trump, which the president revealed after having asked that it be off the record. “I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” Mr. Sulzberger said in a statement.CreditBenjamin Norman for The New York Times

In a statement, Mercedes Schlapp, a White House communications adviser, said, “The president regularly meets with members of the media, and we can confirm this meeting took place.” She did not provide any further details of the meeting or explain why the president chose to publicize it.

The White House had requested that the meeting be kept off the record, according to the statement from The Times.

“But with Mr. Trump’s tweet this morning,” the statement said, “he has put the meeting on the record, so A. G. has decided to respond to the president’s characterization of their conversation, based on detailed notes A. G. and James took.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Sulzberger described the meeting with Mr. Trump, whom he had met only once before, as cordial. But he said he went into the Oval Office determined to make a point about what he views as the dangers of the president’s inflammatory language.

Mr. Sulzberger recalled telling Mr. Trump at one point that newspapers had begun posting armed guards outside their offices because of a rise in threats against journalists. The president, he said, expressed surprise that they did not already have armed guards.


At another point, Mr. Trump expressed pride in popularizing the phrase “fake news,” and said other countries had begun banning it. Mr. Sulzberger responded that those countries were dictatorships and that they were not banning “fake news” but rather independent scrutiny of their actions.

Still, Mr. Sulzberger said, by the end of the session, he felt that Mr. Trump had listened to his arguments. The president, Mr. Sulzberger recalled, told him he was glad that he had raised those issues and would think about them.

Mr. Sulzberger said he bore no illusions that his comments would prompt Mr. Trump to curb his attacks on the news media. He said he encouraged the president to complain about news coverage in The Times that he viewed as unfair. But he appealed to him not to systematically attack journalists and journalism around the world.

The Times published an article this weekend about Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, which noted that they had invited Mr. Sulzberger to a dinner at their home in Manhattan in honor of Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations.

Until Sunday morning, Mr. Trump had spent an uncharacteristically quiet weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

In other tweets, he celebrated the recent positive economic news and revived a threat to shut down the government when its funding runs out in September if congressional Democrats do not vote to pay for the border wall with Mexico.

“Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT!” the president said. “We need great people coming into our Country!”

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Het wonder van Kroatië begon in Zadar


In de pauzes tussen het luchtalarm leerde Luka Modric voetballen. In Zadar. Daar waar zijn familie tijdens de burger-oorlog naartoe vluchtte. Wint Kroatië met hem het WK?

Het huis van de familie Modric in Zadar. Luka woonde hier met zijn familie tot zijn opa werd vermoord door Servische troepen. Foto Daniel Rosenthal

Luka Modric, een man van halverwege de 50, haalt zijn koeien en schapen uit de stal naast zijn huis in het Kroatische gehucht dat vernoemd is naar zijn ­familie: Modrici. Hij ment de kudde het steile pad op, de grillige grijze bergen in. Het is de late zomer van 1991, Kroatië heeft een paar weken eerder eenzijdig zijn onafhankelijkheid uitgeroepen van de afbrokkelende Joegoslavische federatie.

Luka Modric zou nooit terugkeren. Dorpsgenoten vonden zijn stoffelijke resten later tussen rotsen. Hij werd vermoord door de oprukkende Servische troepen. Modric’ zoon sloeg met zijn vrouw en drie kleine kinderen op de vlucht langs de enige nog veilige route: naar beneden, richting de Adriatische Zee, naar het havenstadje Zadar.

Zevenentwintig zomers later groeien vijgenbomen door het kapotgeschoten dak van het huis in Modrici. Naast de stal, daar waar de herder voorgoed in de bergen verdween, staat een bord: ‘Niet betreden, mijnen.’

Onder aanvoering van Luka Modric  (32), de kleinzoon van de vermoorde herder, kan het Kroatische voetbalelftal zondag wereldkampioen worden tegen Frankrijk. Kroatië, ruim 4 miljoen inwoners, zou na Uruguay in 1950 het kleinste land zijn dat die titel verovert. Het zou een sensatie zijn. En dat onder de leiding van Modric, een speler die zich door zijn rust en bescheidenheid zo duidelijk onderscheidt van andere internationale vedettes.

De Kroatische trots

‘Luka is zo bescheiden, net als zijn ­vader Sipe. Echt klasse mensen’, zegt Ivan (45), een grote man die op de markt dezer dagen goud geld verdient met het verkopen van rood-wit-geblokte Kroatische vlaggetjes. Ivan kan het weten, want Modric’ ouders en jongste zus wonen in hetzelfde appartementencomplex. ‘Zijn vader heeft al jaren geleden een BMW gekregen, maar hij rijdt nog steeds in zijn oude Fiat. Dat vind ik prachtig, dat het geld hem niet naar het hoofd is gestegen.’ Als eerbetoon aan de familie heeft Ivan zijn jongste zoon zes jaar geleden Luka genoemd.

Kroatië, sinds vier jaar EU-lid, is een land op zoek naar identiteit en een plek in de wereld. Het kampt met corruptie, met belangenverstrengelingen tussen politiek en bedrijfs­leven en met jongeren die het land om deze redenen massaal de rug toekeren – het geboortecijfer daalt. Maar het is ook een trots land – en niet alleen in sportieve zin.

Foto Daniel Rosenthal

Steeds meer ontevredenen zoeken er hun heil in nationalisme, in de verboden symbolen van de Ustaca, de Kroatische nazi’s die met Mussolini en Hitler collaboreerden. ‘Extremisme is fout’, zegt Ivan. ‘Maar nationalisme is nodig. Als wij ons twintig jaar geleden niet tegen de Serviërs hadden geweerd, bestonden we nu niet.’

Voetbal is oorlog. Als deze boude uitspraak van Rinus Michels ergens de waarheid benadert, dan in de lappendeken van landjes die is ontstaan uit de as van Joegoslavië. In het collectieve geheugen van veel Kroaten, Bosniërs en Serviërs wordt het begin van de burgeroorlog gemarkeerd door een voetbalwedstrijd tussen rivalen Dinamo Zagreb en Rode Ster Belgrado op 13 mei 1990. Al voor de aftrap bestormden ultranationalistische Servische hooligans het thuisvak, omdat de Kroaten, minstens even nationalistisch, hen uitdaagden met nationale liederen en de slogan ‘Kosovo is een staat’.

De oorlog verzwolg generatie veelbelovende Joegoslavische sterspelers. Serviërs Sinisa Mihajlovic en Pedja ­Mijatovic en de Kroaten Svonimir Boban en Davor Suker, in 1987 wereldkampioen voor onder de 21. Zij beëindigden hun loopbaan voor ­rivaliserende nationale teams.


Ondertussen leerde de volgende generatie voetballen in de pauzes tussen het luchtalarm. Zadar, de stad waar de 6-jarige Luka Modric opgroeide in een hotel dat dienst deed als vluchtelingenopvang, werd zwaar getroffen. Vanuit de bergen werd de stad tussen 1991 en 1995 vier jaar lang dagelijks beschoten door de troepen van Slobodan Milosevic.

Zo tragisch als de geschiedenis van de stad is, zo gelukkig is Zadar in het voetbal. De plaatselijke tweedeklasser NK Zadar is hofleverancier van ‘de ­Vurigen’, zoals het Kroatische elftal wordt genoemd. Behalve Modric komen ook keeper en penaltykiller Danijel Subasic en verdediger Sime Vrsaljko uit de stad. ‘Ze groeien goed hier in de zon’, grapt algemeen directeur Svetko Custic (56), van achter zijn zware houten bureau met daarop een teamfoto uit 1996, met een minuscule blonde Modric en een iets grotere Subasic. ‘Luca was daadwerkelijk zo verlegen als over hem wordt verteld’, zegt Custic. ‘Zie je die jongen naast hem? Dat was zijn vriend, maar hij sloeg die kleine ook geregeld in elkaar.’

Trots vertelt Custic dat hij erbij was tijdens de halve finale tegen Engeland. Hij trekt zijn mobiel voor de bewijsfoto – met vader Sipe Modric. ‘Zondag zullen we de grootste triomf uit de Kroatische geschiedenis beleven. Ik zeg twee-nul.’ En na een korte pauze: ‘Maar natuurlijk wel in de verlenging. Medewerker Roko Pavici (20), die voor Custic vertaalt, vult aan: ‘Wij vechten het best als we eerst worden beledigd.’ Custic doet er nog een schep bovenop: ‘Andere landen op de Balkan zoals Servië, die kunnen een goede wedstrijd spelen, maar alleen Kroaten hebben de discipline een toernooi te winnen.’

Directeur van NK Zadar Svetko Custic (links) en Josip Bepo Baslo, sportief directeur van de club. Achter hen een foto van de zoon van Custic, die overleed na een ongeluk tijdens een voetbalwedstrijd. Foto Daniel Rosenthal

De voetbalgeschiedenis van Zadar heeft ook een zwarte bladzijde. De zoon van directeur Custic, Hvorje, staat ook op de foto. Hij leek net als zijn jeugdmaatjes Modric en Subasic op weg naar een glanzende carrière bij de nationale ploeg. Tot hij tien jaar geleden uitgleed op het veld van NK Zadar en zo ongelukkig tegen de betonnen rand van de tribune gleed dat hij vijf dagen later in het ziekenhuis overleed aan hersenletsel. Vader Custic slikt, maar herpakt zich. ‘Niet te lang over nadenken. Wat gebeurd is, is gebeurd, hoe vreselijk ook.’ Die woorden herhaalt hij min of meer letterlijk als hij praat over zijn tijd als soldaat in de burgeroorlog. Wat hem snel weer op Modric en de rest van de succesgeneratie brengt. ‘Ze zijn door die oorlog snel volwassen geworden, verantwoordelijk.’ Trots strijkt hij over de foto uit 1996.

Wrange bijsmaak

Maar zoals elk verhaal in Kroatië heeft ook dat van Modric, de vluchteling die het tot topvoetballer schopte, mogelijk een dubbele bodem. Sinds een paar jaar is het land in de ban van een reusachtige fraudezaak rond Zdravko Mamic, de voormalig directeur van Dinamo Zagreb, waar Modric speelde tot hij in 2008 voor 21 miljoen werd verkocht aan Tottenham Hotspur. Mamic zou miljarden hebben witgewassen, waaronder een deel van dat van de transfersom van Modric, die daarover onder ede zou hebben gelogen. Er dreigt een rechtszaak tegen hem.

Op het hotel waar Modric opgroeide staat daarom ‘Modric hoer van Mamic’, in graffiti. Begin je daarover tegen Ivana Vidic (23), administratief medewerker van NK Zadar, dan zucht ze. ­‘Mamic is natuurlijk een crimineel, en in dit land zijn honderden, duizenden kleine Mamicen. Gek worden we ervan. Maar tegen Luka Modric zijn geen bewijzen, alleen geruchten. Voetbal gaat niet over geruchten maar over doelpunten.’

In het Kroatië van 2018 kan het mooie niet zonder het lelijke – en de mogelijke Kroatische wereldtitel zou extra fel schitteren tegen de achtergrond van fraude, economische zorgen en ontluikend nationalisme. Maar het perfect logische, onpretentieuze voetbal van Luka Modric, dat blijft van een ondubbelzinnige schoonheid.

De vraag is niet óf Nederland onder water verdwijnt, maar wannéér

De houdbaarheid van Nederland is eindig, schrijft klimaatwetenschapper . De politiek moet zich afvragen voor wie ze dijken ophogen: voor de komende drie of de komende tien generaties?

Foto ANP 

Laatst zag ik een interview met de ingenieur die verantwoordelijk was voor de bouw van de Oosterscheldekering. Hij vertelde dat die kering technisch 200 jaar mee kan. Bij het ontwerp in de jaren 70 werd trots beweerd dat-ie liefst 40 centimeter zeespiegelstijging aankon. Als je bedenkt hoe weinig er destijds over zeespiegelstijging bekend was, is het bijna revolutionair te noemen dat daar überhaupt over was nagedacht.

Inmiddels zijn we ruim veertig jaar onderzoek verder. En leert theorie én waarneming ons dat de grote ijskappen op Groenland en Antarctica geen ijsblokjes zijn die tergend langzaam van boven afsmelten. Hun ligging, deels onder zeeniveau, maakt ze veel gevoeliger voor afsmelting door warm oceaanwater dan we tien of twintig jaar geleden dachten. Dus zelfs bij de sterkste broeikasgasreductie en het meest conservatieve klimaatscenario gaat de Oosterscheldekering zijn 200ste verjaardag bij lange na niet halen.

Maar hoeveel gaat de zeespiegel dan wél stijgen?

Kort geleden verscheen in Nature Geoscience een kloek overzicht (met Utrechtse inbreng) van wat het verre verleden ons leert over de werking van ijskappen en zeespiegel. Daarin een even simpele als intrigerende grafiek over de lange-termijneffecten van de opwarming: de twee graden uit Parijs leiden uiteindelijk, over een paar duizend jaar, tot ongeveer 15 meter zeespiegelstijging. Eigenlijk nauwelijks verbazingwekkend, als je bedenkt dat het 20.000 jaar geleden, in de laatste ijstijd, een graad of 5 kouder was dan nu, en de zeespiegel 120 meter lager stond.


Hoe moeten we zo’n resultaat nu rijmen met wetenschappers die telkens maar weer geduldig uitleggen – ikzelf nog vorige maand bij Jinek aan tafel – dat stoppen met fossiele brandstoffen de kans op sterke zeespiegelstijging veel kleiner maakt?

Het sleutelwoord hier is tijdschalen. Op tijdschalen van tien tot honderd jaar zie je vooral de processen die zich relatief snel aanpassen aan een oplopende CO2-concentratie. Zoals de opwarming van de atmosfeer, die is bijna instantaan. En die van de oceaan ijlt een beetje na.

Maar op de echt lange tijdschalen beginnen trage maar bijna onhoudbare processen te spelen. Bijvoorbeeld dat het ijs opwarmt en daardoor makkelijker vervormt, en dus sneller van het continent stroomt. Of dat het oppervlak van de ijskap door de smelt inzakt en dus in steeds warmere lucht terechtkomt. Wat de afsmelting weer versterkt. Zulke processen spelen op tijdschalen van eeuwen tot millennia. Dat is de lange arm van de opwarming.

De vraag is dan ook niet óf Nederland onder water verdwijnt, maar wannéér dat gaat gebeuren. En dat bedoel ik niet op een alarmistische manier. Het is gewoon kijken naar wat de natuurkunde – en de geologische archieven – ons leren.

25 mm per jaar

Met cijfers uit het IPCC-rapport van 2013 kun je schatten dat we de 2 meter zeespiegelstijging in het hoogste scenario ergens in de tweede helft van de volgende eeuw bereiken. Recenter onderzoek verkent manieren waarop de ijskap op Antarctica sneller zijn ijs kwijt kan raken, en sluit daarmee 2 meter zeespiegel aan het einde van de huidige eeuw niet uit.

Toegegeven, dan moet er wel nog heel wat gaan gebeuren: 2 meter deze eeuw, da’s 25 mm per jaar gemiddeld in de komende 80 jaar, versus 3 mm per jaar op dit moment. Maar ook dit is wetenschap: met zekerheid uitsluiten kunnen we dit scenario (nog) niet.

Het jaar 2100, 2400, of 4000 na Christus als houdbaarheidsdatum voor Nederland. Hier stelt de natuurwetenschap een interessante, filosofische vraag aan de politiek. Voor wie moet je nog klimaatbeleid maken? Voor wie moet je de dijken nog ophogen? Voor de komende drie generaties? De komende tien? Hoe lang moet de arm van je beleid zijn?

Het zijn vragen over ethiek en moraliteit, die misschien niet te beantwoorden zijn. Maar die bij Rijkswaterstaat wel leiden tot een verandering in het denken. Bouw alleen nog no-regret waterwerken. Keringen die je kunt ophogen of uitbreiden als de werkelijkheid of wetenschappelijke inzichten daar om vragen. De watervariant van de hand op de kraan. Met die filosofie zou de Oosterscheldekering anno nu nooit meer gebouwd worden.

Lees meer

Paul Luttikhuis

Buitenlandredacteur Paul Luttikhuis volgt op dit blog nieuws over klimaatverandering. Hij schrijft over sociale en economische gevolgen, over manieren waarop landen zich daarop voorbereiden, over nieuwe wetenschappelijke inzichten en over de onderhandelingen na ‘Parijs’. Regelmatig zullen gastauteurs hun licht laten schijnen op deze thema’s.

The Dinosaurs Outside Your Window

Originally published at Fox News

Look outside your window and you will probably see dinosaurs. They are flying, hopping, chirping, and perching on trees. You call them birds, but they are dinosaurs.

They are not descended from dinosaurs. They are dinosaurs.

Biologically, they are the flying equivalent of the velociraptors that scared you in Jurassic Park.

The Dinosaurs Outside Your Window

They share the same highly efficient lungs, the same skeletal system, the same highly intelligent brain, and the same effective eyesight.

I was reminded of the marvelous wonders of the natural world and the fascinating evolution of science by a very readable new book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte.

Brusatte, a 34-year old Illinois native and paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh, has the personality of a natural entertainer. His stories of dinosaurs and the people who love them bring paleontology to life. He knows how to entertain and educate so that science comes alive and you become engrossed in the stories of how knowledge expands and refines.

Dinosaurs are a wonderful example of how knowledge changes over time and how scientific conclusions must adjust to new facts and new understanding.

When I was young, dinosaurs were analyzed as though they were cold-blooded reptiles. Cold blood limits the amount of oxygen you can process. You can have a burst of speed, but then you must rest and recuperate.

Because of this belief in the reptile-like dinosaurs, they were portrayed in energy-saving postures. The Tyrannosaurus rex was depicted as upright but with its tail dragging on the ground. Furthermore, since we thought they were reptile-like and cold-blooded, we believed they could not be related to birds.

The Dinosaurs Outside Your Window

Dr. John Ostrom, a paleontologist at Yale University, began proposing that birds were dinosaurs in the 1970s — resurrecting a theory that Thomas Henry Huxley had first proposed in the 1860s. For a century, the scientific establishment had rejected Huxley and insisted that dinosaurs were reptiles, like lizards.

Dr. Ostrom and his charismatic, almost rabble rousing student, Bob Bakker, popularized Ostrom’s theories in a terrific book, The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction.

At the time, what Ostrom was saying was seen as heresy by most of the older paleontologists. Yet, the nature of science is such that facts matter. The case for warm-blooded birds being dinosaurs became so strong that, by inference, the dinosaurs were warm-blooded. If they were warm-blooded, the museum exhibits had to be changed to represent a much more active more dynamic animal. Suddenly T-Rex was even more formidable and more frightening.

Brusatte outlines the evolution of our knowledge as new discoveries piled up on the side of the warm-blooded birds are dinosaurs thesis.

Then came the great discoveries of actual feathers on dinosaurs in China. Now, the linkages have become irrefutable.

Early feathers were very simple and apparently grown for warmth or for signaling. The prettier the feathers, the more likely the dinosaur was to attract a mate (patterns which certainly exist in birds today). Gradually, some dinosaurs began growing more complex feathers and began to learn how to fly. Then, their body shape changed and included lighter bones, less weight, and very strong chest muscles to power the wings. Suddenly, you have flying dinosaurs, which we now call birds.

One of Brusatte’s most interesting sections is on the lung systems that dinosaurs developed, which are so different from and much more powerful than mammal lung systems. Dinosaurs, like us, get oxygen out of incoming air that is inhaled, but they also have a system of air sacs that captures and momentarily stores some of the incoming air. When we exhale we send out carbon dioxide but get no new oxygen until we inhale again. Dinosaurs, on the other hand, get a second wave of oxygen to absorb when they release the stored fresh air from their air sacs. Essentially, they get two breaths of air each time they inhale. As the need for more air sacs grew, they infiltrated into bone structures. Classic dinosaur skeletons show the air sacs in bones, just like modern birds.

This double breath lung technique allows dinosaurs to have much more oxygen than mammals and gives them additional energy. It is a major factor in modern birds being able to fly at very high altitudes.

I strongly urge you to read The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. It will both entertain and educate you.

In addition, I urge you to look around at the wonders of the natural world and take some time this summer to reflect on the amazing complexity of the world in which we live. Finally, I think you will have a renewed respect for the process of science and a renewed caution in believing that current “scientific consensus” is unchanging and unchallengeable.

If you have some young relatives or friends, give them a copy of Brusatte’s book. You might be launching a new paleontologist as they find themselves absorbed by his book and his personality.

Your Friend,

P.S. My new book, Trump’s America is a #1 Best Sellerin Publisher’s WeeklyThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington PostOrder your copy here>

The U.S. once again has the world’s fastest supercomputer. Keep up the hustle.

The Titan supercomputer, the world’s fastest in 2012, has been replaced by the Summit. (Courtesy of NVidia and Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
June 25 at 8:10 PM

Jack Dongarra is University Distinguished Professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and a Distinguished Research Staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The United States has knocked China out of the No. 1 position in supercomputing. This week, when the latest ranking of the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world was released, the Energy Department’s new Summit machine reclaimed a distinction that China has held for five years. The development is more than a matter of national pride; supercomputers are an indispensable tool for national security, technological progress and economic competitiveness.

How fast is the Summit? To begin with, it is roughly eight times faster than the previous U.S. titleholder, the Titan, from 2012. The Summit, developed for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee (where I work), has a peak performance capability of 200,000 trillion “floating point operations” — or petaflops — per second. That won’t mean much to non-computer scientists, so think of it this way: The entire population of Earth would have to compute continuously for 305 days, performing one operation per second, to match what the Summit does in one second. The Summit exceeds China’s fastest supercomputer by about 30 percent, prompting its ranking by TOP500, a project that I have been involved with since its inception in 1993, along with my colleagues Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Martin Meuer of Prometeus, a German technology company.

Supercomputers are systems that harness the power of multiple refrigerator-size units — the Summit uses an IBM system composed of 256 such cabinets, weighing a combined 340 tons and occupying 5,600 square feet — or about the size of two tennis courts. The development of supercomputers was fueled in the 1990s by the Energy Department’s desire to maintain the readiness of America’s nuclear stockpile without actual detonation testing. That required computer simulations capable of modeling nuclear processes down to tiny fractions of a second. No computer on the planet was capable of such precision, so the department embarked on a campaign that would raise the processing speed of the world’s best computers by a factor of 10,000.

It is the supercomputer’s simulation abilities that are invaluable in science and industry today. They are being applied to research in energy, advanced materials and artificial intelligence, in addition to military applications and other domains. The simulation powers allow scientists to pursue research that was previously impractical or impossible.

Supercomputing’s practical applications are remarkably varied. A hospital in Kansas City, Mo., using high-performance computing to analyze 120 billion DNA sequences to narrow the cause of an infant’s liver failure to two possible genetic variants, produced an accurate diagnosis that helped save the baby’s life. Engineers at General Motors used supercomputers to simulate crash tests from every angle, to test seat belt and air bag performance, and to improve pedestrian safety. A Philadelphia consortium dedicated to energy efficiency used supercomputers to create more efficient and “greener” buildings by simulating thermal flows.

The current supercomputing speeds, known as “petascale,” are staggeringly fast compared with what was available only a few years ago, but they will seem plodding beside the “exascale” supercomputers that are on the horizon. They will exceed a billion-billion operations per second — a decidedly new breed.

Reaching exascale speeds will not be easy. Even for today’s supercomputers to be useful in a wide range of applications, they need to have enormous memories and the ability to store and read vast quantities of data at high speed. The supercomputers must also have a software environment that facilitates the efficient and productive use of the hardware and its underlying architectures. The centers that host them are laying the groundwork for exascale systems.

The quest for exascale is driven by the realization that it will provide even more capability in a broad range of industries, including energy production, pharmaceutical research and development, and aircraft and automobile design. National economic competitiveness relies on the ability to quickly engineer superior products — and supercomputing often has a spillover effect in consumer electronics. Today’s smartphones still have a lot to learn.

And you can bet that the Chinese are working as industriously toward exascale as computer scientists are in the United States, in Japan and in the European Union, which are also serious competitors in supercomputing. The Summit might have brought the “world’s fastest” honors back to the United States, but China — which in 2001 had no supercomputers — still dominates the field, holding the majority of entries in the TOP500 rankings.

Beyond exascale supercomputing, scientists dream of quantum computing using principles of physics for calculations at speeds far beyond anything possible today. But there are many challenges to overcome before quantum computers are a reality for practical computations. The United States and its competitors are of course working intensely on overcoming those challenges. In the shorter term, the race is on to try to surmount the Summit as the world’s fastest supercomputer.

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