Posts Tagged ‘Damian Hurst’

Iranians March Against Trump’s UN Speech

September 23, 2017

This is a very short clip from Telesur English showing the people of Iran marching in protest at Trump’s belligerent speech attacking their country at the UN. It’s only about 23 seconds long, but it does show the range of people on the march, from older men dressed in traditional Islamic garb to young women in chadors and people in western-style, ‘modern’ dress.

I remember the great demonstrations in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, in which thousands of people turned up chanting ‘Margh bar Amrika! Margh bar Thatcher!’ – ‘Death to America! Death to Thatcher!’ I wasn’t impressed with those demonstrations, but having read a little more about the political situation in Iran and foreign exploitation of the country by Britain and America under the Shah, I now understand why the Revolution broke out, and what motivated the marchers to come onto the streets.

The election of Rafsanjani a few years ago seemed to indicate that relations between the West and Iran had thawed. It’s true that the country still has a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, and claims they can’t rescind the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, a claim I find frankly incredible. However, people can move freely between the two nations, and there have been some cultural exchanges. For example, the Young British Artists – Damian Hurst and the rest of them – went to Iran to open an exhibition of their work, and the British Museum also leant the Cyrus Cylinder, documenting the conquests of the great Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the 5th century B.C. to go on display.

John Simpson in his book on the country also points out that Khomeini and the other theocrats were careful to distinguish between America, Ronald Reagan and the American people. They denounced Reagan and America, but not ordinary Americans. He also states that, with the exception of the demonstrations at the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution, in one of which he was nearly torn apart by the crowd, he always knew he was perfectly safe. He describes covering one such demonstration where the crowd were chanting slogans against the ‘great and little Satans’ – meaning America and Britain. He then stepped into the crowd and walked up to one of the demonstrators, and introduced himself. The man greeted him, and said, ‘You are very welcome in Iran, Agha.’ That said, I do know Iranians, who have said the opposite, that you are certainly not safe during these marches.

Trump’s speech has had the effect of making relations between the west and Iran much worse. But it’s very much in line with the policy of the neocons, who defined and set the agenda for American foreign policy in the Middle East back in the 1990s. They want Iran and Syria overthrown. They see them as a danger to Israel, and are angered by the fact that Iran will not let foreigners invest in their businesses. It’s an oil producing country, whose oil industry was dominated under the Shah by us and the Americans, and which was nationalized after the mullahs took power. One of the holidays in the country’s calendar commemorates its nationalization. I’ve no doubt that the American multinationals want to get their hands on it, just as they wanted to steal the Iraqi oil industry.

Iran is abiding by the agreement it signed with Obama not to develop nuclear weapons. This is confirmed by the Europeans and the Russians. The real issues, as I’ve blogged about previously, are that they’re supporting Syria, sending troops into Iraq to support their fellow Shi’a there, and are allied with the Russians. It’s all about geopolitical power.

Iran’s an ancient country, whose culture and history goes back thousands of years, almost to the dawn of western civilization in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. It’s a mosaic of different peoples and languages. If we invade, as the Trump seems to want, it’ll set off more ethnic carnage similar to that in Iraq. And I’ve no doubt we’ll see the country’s precious artistic and archaeological heritage looted and destroyed, just as the war and violence in Iraq has destroyed and seen so much of their history and monuments looted.

Iran is an oppressive theocracy, and its people are exploited. You only have to read Shirin Ebadi’s book on the contemporary situation in Iran to know that. But if Trump sends in the troops, it’ll be just to grab whatever he can of the nation’s wealth for his corporate masters in big business. It certainly won’t be to liberate them and give them democracy.

And the ordinary people of America and Britain will pay, as we will be called upon to send our brave young people to fight and die on a false pretext, just to make the bloated profits of American and western big business even more grossly, obscenely inflated. Just as the cost of the war won’t fall on big business, but on ordinary people, who will be told that public spending will have to be cut, and their taxes raised – but not those of the 1 per cent – in order to pay for it.

Enough lies have been told already, and more than enough people have been killed and maimed, countries destroyed and their people left impoverished, destitute, or forced in to exile.

No war with Iran.

As they chanted during the First Gulf War – ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco!’ Or Aramco, Halliburton or anyone else.

We need peace, so let’s get rid of Trump.

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Florence on Terraforming Mars Using Existing Microbes

January 2, 2017

One of the pieces I put up yesterday was on a paper by two scientists in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, discussing the possibility of terraforming Mars using genetically engineered microbes. Florence, one of the commenters on this blog, used to be a microbiologist, and was extremely interested in the exploration of Mars and the prospect for finding life there. She commented that there are already anaerobic microbes that can exist in comparable conditions on Earth. She felt that the experiments carried designed to detect life on the Red Planet were very inadequate. She wrote

There appears little need to create GMOs for terraforming. We already have the real deal here on earth. Back 3.6 billion years ago, when first life is thought to have arrived/ developed / etc there wasn’t an oxygen based atmosphere. It was anoxic, and the first organisms (the archeao bacteria) were very sensitive to oxygen, and there are still many that find oxygen toxic. These are still found in many places including the human gut! Some microorganisms developed oxygen tolerance and that allowed them to use new food sources, and they began adding oxygen to the atmosphere. These organisms then used this evolutionary advantage to evolve and diversify. When I studied anaerobic bacteria the main problems were sensitivity to oxygen – very difficult to remove from all materials prepared in the standard lab – and the slow growth rate (making the rapid generation of results for research funding cycles pretty difficult).

http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/07_03/extremo.shtmlhttp://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/07_03/extremo.shtml

Then there are the organisms that can grow in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. These are the ones that would be useful in terraforming if the aim was to develop a breathable atmosphere for humans and other animals. These live on very basic nutrients of sulphur and iron containing minerals, plus water. I think the “red” planet would be a great place to find these organisms, and vee may not even need to send ours over, but to stimulate the environmental conditions that would allow the planet to terraform itself. I recall the so-called search for life on the early Mars probes left me speechless – they were just totally inappropriate. But that’s can other story! Thank you for reminding me of the whole area of microbial life here and across the solar system! Happy New Year, too!
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23354702https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23354702

The paper discussing the use of GEMOs to terraform Mars did mention that some existing microorganisms had been considered, such as a variety of cyanobacteria.
Looking through the index of papers published in the Proceedings of the Founding Convention of the Mars Society: August 13-16, 1998, edited by Robert and Linda Zubrin, I did find one paper by James M. Graham and Linda E. Graham on terrestrial microbes on Mars. This was ‘Physiological Ecology of Terrestrial Microbes on a Terraformed Mars’, published in the third volume of papers. Unfortunately, I don’t have that volume, and so I really don’t know anything about the paper or its conclusions, just that it exists.

As for the inadequacy of the instruments aboard the Viking probe to detect life on the Red Planet, Dr. Heather Couper and the late Colin Pillinger also believed that they were too limited to disprove the existence of life in that part of the cosmos. Heather Couper is an astronomer, writer and broadcaster, who’s written a series of books on astronomy. A few years ago I heard her talk about life on Mars at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. Before she began speaking, she asked her audience how many of them believed there was life there. Only a few people put their hands up. She asked the same question again at the end of her talk, after she had explained the problems with Viking’s experiments, and the evidence for life. That time the majority of people put their hands up.

Dr. Colin Pillinger, who was a scientist with the Open University, also made a very strong case for life on Mars, life he hoped to find with the Beagle Probe. One of the ways life could be detected was through its waste gases, like methane. The Beagle Probe carried just such a detector, and Dr. Pillinger said, ‘So if a bacterium farts on Mars, we’ll find it.’ He was another speaker at the Cheltenham Festival of Science, and was well worth hearing. Sadly, the Beagle Probe was a disastrous failure. Rather than soft-landing, it crashed on to the Mars surface, and was destroyed.

Despite this, I still have immense respect for the man. He and his team seemed to be fighting a lone battle to send a British probe to explore the issue, and I am deeply impressed by the way he and his fellow scientists were able to mobilise public support, including celebrities like the artist, Damian Hurst. I got the impression that his team were rushed, and it may well have been this that caused the mission’s failure. But I don’t fault the man for trying, and I think he did a grand job in taking on British officialdom and winning a place for the probe aboard the Ariane craft, when the British authorities didn’t appear to be at all interested, at least, at the beginning.

It’s sad that he failed, but he was genuinely inspirational in pushing for the project. I hope that it will not be too long before someone else sends another, better probe to Mars. And I think we need more scientists, and science educators like him, who can pass on their great enthusiasm for their subject.