We are not afraid, really?

This is the latest media darling: we see the web site bearing this name, we see numerous photographs reaffirming our bravery. We are not afraid! Really? Let us see. We notice a backpack, which someone forgot in a square. This is what a person, who is REALLY not afraid would do: he might either bring it to the "lost and found" or just ignore it, hoping that whoever forgot it would come back and take it. After all you are more likely to be killed by a lightning, than by a backpack bomb.

This is what we really do when we notice a backpack. We call police, which evacuates the whole square and nearby buildings. They call a special anti-bomb unit, which blows up the backpack to find nothing, but some personal effects inside. We call it "taking no chances", the truth is we are not just afraid, we are "shitting-in-our-pants" afraid.

Even Bush and Cheney are "shitting-in-their-pants" afraid and so are members of legislature. Whenever Bush appears somewhere, Cheney is hiding in an undisclosed location". Whenever a private pilot loses his way and approaches Capitol, all legislators are running for their lives. If this is not "shitting-in-their-pants" afraid, what is? Bush claims that his country is at war. When your country is at war, you should behave, like a commander-in-chief, not as a lousy coward. Back in 1941, when Hitler's army was 20 kilometers from the Kremlin, Stalin was there, though he could have run to an undisclosed location in Siberia.

As long as we and our leaders behave that way, all our claims about not being afraid look just stupid and ridiculous. The only people, who are REALLY not afraid are the terrorists; there is no greater proof than being ready to kill oneself.


Killing of innocent people

We hear from all sides the moral outrage against killing of over 50 and wounding several hundred of innocent people in London. The four bombers are described by everyone, who knew them in positive terms only. So, the media express their astonishment as to how the seemingly good law abiding British citizens would do what they did. Well, my position is that everything in this world has its logical explanation.

The only case, where really innocent people get killed, is the case where murderer gets the kick out of it. In all these cases, the murderer does everything not to get caught and certainly does not plan to hurt himself. Have no doubt that nobody in his right mind would agree to kill himself for the purpose of killing people they know to be innocent. In his head, they are not only not innocent, but are hated so much that he is ready to kill himself in order to harm them. This is the highest the hatred can go.

It might make one feel good expressing his outrage at killing innocent people, but this exercise is useless from the point of view of preventing future attacks. A person, who is ready to kill himself, is above the law: you can not punish a person, who is already dead. Such a person can not be stopped. The only way to prevent a suicide attack is to understand the way these people think and make all the necessary to persuade them otherwise.

In order to understand terrorists, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you are a Christian living in a Muslim country, where you on many occasions were treated as a second-hand citizen. Imagine in addition that your Muslim country is waging a war on a Christian country, which never threatened yours. You know that the only real reason for the war is the oil. You see on a daily basis Christian women dignity being desecrated by Muslim soldiers, you see Christian children screaming in pain, because their hands and feet were torn away by Muslim bombs and you see Christian doctors being unable to help, because they have no medication and no proper equipment. I can continue... Is my point clear?

Our corrupt media does not show us, what is really going on in Iraq, but Arab media does show it all and it would be surprising, if those, who saw it would not want to kill in response. Now you may ask, why to kill British civilians, rather than British soldiers. There are two possible explanations. One, since it is the Iraqi civilians, who are being killed by US bombs, the revenge requires killing of civilians. Second, British civilians are the ones who elected Blair, so they are responsible for the actions of their government.

Blair wants to introduce a law making it a crime to say something good about terrorists. Has he ever heard about freedom of speech? But the main point is that it would not help him in the least. If there are people, who are ready to kill themselves in order to kill you, you better look at yourself, because you must have done something very-very wrong.


Death by ignorance

When people get killed at work, just because they ignored some fundamental professional rules, their death is called accidental. Some even try to get consolation saying that they died doing what they loved best. The truth is that they died, because they were incompetent in doing "what they loved best".

Some time ago, a surgeon died from AIDS, which she contracted by cutting herself during an operation. She was hailed as highly qualified surgeon. Come on, if she could not avoid cutting herself, clearly she did a lot of wrong cuts on patients as well.

A university professor from Ottawa died trying to climb Everest. He was 65 and he had a doctorate degree. Guess, what was his specialty? He was specializing in the response of older people to high altitudes. If his death is not a proof of his incompetence, what is?

Four boy scout leaders got killed by electrocution, when they tried to set up a tent under a high voltage power line. If you saw the picture, it was a very tall tent, with its pole touching the power line. What kind of an idiot would decide even to stay for 5 minutes under a power line, let alone to set up a tall tent? Boy scout leader is supposed to be a person highly qualified in surviving skills. Keeping a good distance from power lines should be one of the most fundamental. Again we hear that this was an accident and that they died doing what they loved best. They should have been fired long time ago. If they were fired, some children would have been alive now.


Questions to poll the public

I have noticed that TV stations often put various questions to the public inviting to call or to vote on-line. Here are some examples. Do you think the shuttle program should be discontinued? (YES, NO) Do you think Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons? (YES, NO)

I have a doctoral degree in Engineering and I would not dare even to try to respond to the first question. When the first Sputnik appeared, everybody thought about possibility of weapons in space and this is effectively why the whole thing was initiated. Only later on we understood the remarkable applications of this technology for communications. The same goes for the present research. We can not even imagine, what results might come out of it. So, to answer this question, one has to perform a very complicated analysis of the money spent on space research as compared with some alternative spending. General public can not possibly do that.

The second question about Iran, I do not think even the top CIA official would know the answer, let alone general public. Here is my suggestion for questions, which TV stations can ask public to respond:

1. Is the square root singularity of stress distribution near an angular point of a rigid punch still valid? (YES, NO)

2. Is it possible to obtain a solution of semi-infinite crack problem as a limiting case of a circular crack problem? (YES, NO)

3. Is the integral of the square of the Bessel function of zero order with argument "x" over the interval from zero to infinity finite? (YES, NO)

All the questions above do make sense, so try to answer them and after a while I shall tell you what are the right answers.


Use your brain, before it is too late

A grieving mother, who lost her son in Iraq, is picketing Bush at his Texas ranch. She is asking Bush to explain to her, why her son was killed. My heart goes out to her.

On the other hand, would she be picketing Bush if her son were still alive? I doubt it. So, I wish to tell all the parents, whose children are now in Iraq: "Use your brain, before it is too late! Imagine, that your son was killed, go and join that mother. This way you still might save your own child."


The art of declaring a lousy failure to be a smashing success

I have never seen a human being honestly saying that he was incompetent and failed. Usually, this person claims to be "not perfect", thus creating impression that he is very good, just a little bit short of perfection. Here are some other examples.

Several years ago, a pilot ignored gauges telling him that something was wrong with fuel supply to the left motor. He failed to notice that his left wing was leaking fuel into the ocean. Instead of shutting up his left motor, he switched the pump and started pumping fuel from right wing to the left motor, thus speeding up loss of fuel. Soon he had no fuel at all. Then he managed to land on the island and was hailed as a hero, who saved the lives of his passengers. In reality, he was the one, whose incompetence placed the passengers lives in danger in the first place. Of course, the defective plane should not have been allowed to fly.

Just recently, Air France pilot has overshot the runway, skidded into a ravine and caught fire. If you think, this is a lousy failure, think again. The crew was hailed as heroes for saving life of passengers. In reality, the pilot was the one, who endangered their lives in the first place. If the weather was too bad, go to Montreal and land there. In addition, we learned that out of 8 exits, 4 did not open; out of the 4 open exits, 2 had slides not working.

NASA spent over a $1 BILLION to fix the problem of foam chunks falling from the fuel tank during launch. During the last launch, a chunk of foam still fell off the tank, NASA has grounded all future shuttle flights. Do you think, they would honestly say: "The last events proved us to be totally incompetent"? On the contrary, the art of declaring any failure to be a success was switched in full gear.

I heard NASA representative saying proudly that NASA people are doing IMPOSSIBLE tasks every day. It is sad that the reporter did not have guts to tell this representative: "Fixing foam does not fall into the category of things 'impossible', it does not even fall into the category of 'difficult'. It seems like $1 million is too much to fix it. You wasted $1 BILLION and still did not fix it. Should not your top people apologize and resign in disgrace?"

When astronauts arrived at the space station, they discovered that some filling was sticking out between tiles. Again, instead of admitting that someone did not do his job of fixing the filling, NASA declared the event to be a smashing success: first in the world repairs to the shuttle.

During the past twenty years, NASA had 14 people killed in totally preventable accidents. During the same time, Russians had not killed anyone. Here is a suggestion: for the $1 BILLION wasted, NASA could have hired Russians to transport its crews fourth and back at least 10 times.


USSR 1940 vs USA 2005

I watched TV reporter, amazed and surprised, praising to heaven heroism of a woman, who had invited total strangers - evacuees from New Orleans to stay in her house. Our generation 64 years ago, back in the Soviet Union, had experienced a much bigger calamity. Not thousand and not hundred thousand, tens of millions of evacuees were running from invading Hitler. Everybody was in panic, there were no helicopters, no National Guard to help anyone. And guess what, nobody was placed in a stadium, nobody was placed in a public shelter or a refugee camp. Everybody was placed in the strangers' homes and nobody called it heroism. It was so obvious to everyone that nobody even questioned it: the evacuees lost everything, they are homeless and they can not be left out in the street, so they should be let in, no matter how crowded the apartment becomes.

My mother ran with me (18 months) and my brother (7 years old) till Tataria. She had a lot of help from strangers all the way and, of course, there has never been a case of one evacuee raping another one. She was given a room, a job and rations of food. Everybody had a job and a ration and nobody was in the street. Soviet Union was never famous for extra living accommodations, nevertheless, everybody had a roof over the head. Unlike US, Soviet Union was not famous for surplus of food either, nevertheless, nobody was dying of hunger, except for Leningrad, but it was because Hitler blockaded the city and it was extremely difficult to get food there. Even in this extreme situation, people dying of cold and hunger, year after year, there were no rapes. Can you imagine, how would Americans behave in this situation?

It was not just Russians accepting Russians in their homes - hundreds of thousands were evacuated to Asian republics, and everywhere they were accepted, without any problem. Oprah said to be dismayed by the level of disrespect among evacuees towards elderly. Here I also have to say that during my 39 years of life in the USSR, I have never heard of a single case of a young man knocking out an elderly lady in order to get her purse. USSR had a lot of crime, they could rob me, but they would not touch an elderly woman. My mother lived alone in her old years and I never worried about her safety and she was indeed safe till her death.

It seems like Americans can learn a thing or two about morals from a very technologically backward people of the old USSR.


The truth and the legend

Each year in August, we remember the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each time we see stairs with a stain and the host tells us that it was the shade of a human who was evaporated by the explosion. Is this really so? Can a human body be evaporated? We know that a cremation takes well over an hour at the temperature of 1200 degrees Celsius, after it is finished, still some ashes remain, the body does not just disappear. In the case of an atomic bomb, the temperature at the explosion site is less than 4000 degrees and it decreases proportional to a square of the distance. The bomb was exploded at 600 m above the ground, so the temperature at the stairs was even less than cremation one. Explosion radiation lasts less than a minute, so there is no way a human body could evaporate.

In addition, numerous bodies were found just at the epicentre of the explosion, all were dead, but no part of their body had "evaporated". Also, there is no trace of melting at the stairs, which means that the temperature was not so high. Last, but not least, evaporated body does not leave a stain, stain is there, because the body did not evaporate.

How did this legend come to life? Somebody saw the stain and imagined a very impressive and horrifying picture of an evaporating human body, and the rest is history. I have difficulty with it, first, because it is just not true; second, because you do not need to invent horror, the truth about nuclear weapon is horrible enough.


Fight with amphetamines

Premiers of provinces around Canada claim to be very happy with federal government decision to increase penalties for amphetamine offences. Are they really stupid or just pretend to be? The history of war on drugs proved again and again that tougher penalties just do not work. I can tell you what will be the result of increased penalties. Drugs will get more expensive, addicted people will have greater difficulty to satisfy their needs and will more often resort to robberies and other violent crimes to get the money. So, the crime will not decrease, but rather will increase.

Drugs do not create crime, absence of drugs does. I have been an observer in jail for over 13 years. Majority of people in jail are using drugs. When a person is stoned, he either sleeps or smiles to everybody, is very happy and does not attack anyone. When a person is sober and needs drugs, this is when he is dangerous. He will not hesitate for a second to kill a taxi driver for $10 to get his next fix. Is not it obvious that a much better solution is to give every addict drugs for free plus a safe place to use them? It is none of the government business to put people in jail, just because they are harming themselves. People have absolute right to their bodies.

The money saved on incarcerating people should be used to pay for detoxification programs and free drugs. In exactly the same way as end of Prohibition finished with bootlegging, distribution of free drugs will spell an end to organised crime, since nobody will be buying from them drugs at their exorbitant prices.


USA 2005 vs USSR 1940, part 2

I wrote in my previous posting that during the war with Hitler, there were no refugee camps, everybody was accepted by local population and nobody considered this to be something heroic. It was normal, period. I also wrote that there were no rapes among evacuees. Some people were questioning, how do I know there were no rapes, since at that time there was no CNN. The question says a lot about Americans: they consider their behaviour as a norm and it does not even cross their mind that different people behave differently. Here is how I know.

I shall start with an example. Everybody knows that during civil war in Sierra Leone there were numerous cases of limb amputations of civilians, children were forced to kill their parents. You may say that nothing like that ever happened during American civil war. If somebody asks you, how do you know, there was no CNN at that time, your response will be: "I know, because our people just does not do this kind of things". So, my response is exactly the same: "I know, because Soviet people just did not do this kind of things". There are certain things, which are typical for English and French and are not typical for Soviet people. I give some examples below.

It was not uncommon in the Soviet Union to be awaken in the middle of night by a drunken voice singing a song in the street at the top of his lungs, something I never encountered in Canada. On the other hand, when I was a little child, I played in the street, without any adult supervision and no child ever disappeared. It just did not happen. I lived in USSR for 39 years and never was approached by a homosexual. During the very first month after my arrival to Montreal, someone tried to grab my crotch in the sauna of the house, where I lived. You can imagine my bewilderment.

There was practically no boarding school or orphanage in English or French countries, where there would be no allegations of sexual abuse of children. During 39 years I lived in the USSR, I never heard of a single case. It is not that Soviets are extremely sexually attracted to children and are fighting their desires, the explanation is much simpler: for a normal person, a child presents no sexual attraction, period. If you read Solzhenitsyn, he described many horrors of GOULAG and you might notice that homosexual rape in jail was not one of them. On the other hand, numerous postings describe such an event as inherent in American jails. Sexual perversion in English and French is much much greater than in Soviet people, probably more than a thousand to one.

I never heard of any violent crime in public transport or in elevators. Moscow metro was the safest place in town. I can only guess, why this was so. If someone tried to rob a passenger in metro, either the robbed would scream or other people see it and at least one will jump the robber, after which others would join and they would not wait for police to arrive.

A number of years ago, I have read about a woman in New York, who shouted at the top of her lungs while being raped, everybody heard her and nobody even bothered to call police. This kind of event was just not possible in the USSR. At the first scream, a crowd of men with sticks would run after the rapist, and he better start running early, because if this crowd gets him, he would never walk again and there is good chance, he would never breath again.

All men had wives and some had daughters, they did not want to rehabilitate rapists, they did not want rapists walking around, period. The above is just my guess, because in 39 years of my life in USSR, I have not heard of a single woman raped and shouting for help.

All the cases of rape I heard of were "date rapes". Russians were quite puritan people back then and sex before marriage was "immoral". In many cases, sex was consensual, but when it became public knowledge, the woman started shouting rape and many men went to jail because of this.


Spectacle in New York

Mayor of New York declared that he had a "specific" information that terrorists from Iraq were coming to attack New York metro. He had the date of attack, but not the names or photos of people who were coming. He proudly declared that he would still take metro to go to work and so would do his children. Now, if city boss tells you that he is taking metro to go to work, you can take it too, because there is no "specific" threat, there is no threat of any kind. He is just playing a spectacle to achieve 2 goals: to show himself a hero and to show population that he cares.

Those goals achieved, police presence can be ended, and so it did, which proves the point that there has never been any threat. If there was one, the terrorists certainly could have waited couple of days. After all, the day of attack can be moved to another date.


So much about Kyoto

I have heard on TV that the amount of energy the whole population of our planet is using during one year is equal to the amount of energy which the Earth receives from the sun during just one hour. If this is really so, then the energy consumed by humans is less than 0.02% of the energy received from the sun. Even if the energy consumption by humans will go to zero, the Earth will not notice this in any shape or form and humans are certainly not responsible for the so-called global warming.

We are so busy drawing horror pictures of global warming that we neglect to mention some obvious pluses of global warming. For example, thawing of Arctic Ocean will allow cheaper and faster shipping from Europe and Russia to American West coast. Huge spaces in Siberia and Canada will become inhabitable and fit for agriculture, mineral exploration, etc. On the other hand, they scare us to death that polar bear would not be able to hunt. Well, take 1% of additional profits from above mentioned activities, hire helicopters and fly year-round food drops for polar bears. I hope they would not mind getting ready-to-eat food thrown to them from helicopters.

Much is said about global warming and hurricanes. Well, the last record of named hurricanes was established in 1933, year when energy consumption was the lowest due to depression. Older people might remember the drought and heat waves of 1930's. These days, scientists are scaring us with droughts, while forgetting that droughts and other pestilence was recorded since Bible times, except then it was attributed to God.

Carbon dioxide was vilified to such an extent, that everybody forgot that it is an absolute necessity and if it disappears, all life will disappear with it, because it is the main component in the photosynthesis. It is not harmful to health, so there is no need to fight it. We need to fight harmful pollutants, like mercury, sulphur, etc. Carbon dioxide is not one of them. All this does not mean that it is OK to cut forests or to destroy wild animals habitat; we just should not confuse apples with oranges.


About diet

So much has been said and written about the diet. Recently someone proudly announced loosing weight while eating at McDonald's. Everybody is surprised. There is nothing to be surprised about: you can eat anywhere anything, just do not eat too much. It is that simple. Imagine, that you have already done a gastric bypass surgery and eat accordingly. The advantages of this approach: you do not need to pay for a very expensive medical procedure, you do not risk to die during or after the operation and it is reversible. All you need is imagination.


Disrupting Al-Qaida

Bush proudly announced his achievements in protection of US: at least 3 attempts were "disrupted". He did not elaborate as to what were those attempts. One "disruption" was though clarified. It is arrest of Padilla, who Bush declared "enemy combatant", though no weapon or anything resembling it was not found on Padilla. But what is more interesting, is the fact that when he was arrested, the accusation was that he was planning to explode a dirty bomb. Now the story changed: he planned to use gas to explode a building. Well, don't we deserve an explanation, why the accusation was changed? If they made a mistake the first time, may be they are in error yet again.

If Bush really "disrupted" a crime in progress, accuse the guy, present your evidence to the jury and have him convicted. Several years have passed since the arrest and no charges are coming. Is it because there is no evidence that anything was disrupted or anyone can suggest another plausible explanation?

In the past, Americans used to accuse Soviets of keeping people in jail, without public trials. Times change, don't they?


Junk science at its best

A new "scientific" study was announced recently: it was established that stress protects women from breast cancer by reducing production of female hormones. These idiots do not understand that an announcement to a woman that she has a breast cancer creates such a stress that if it was really helpful, it would have cured her from cancer. Even presuming that stress did protect from breast cancer, what idiot would subject herself to a sure danger of dying from a heart attack in exchange of a promise of protection from beast cancer, which in all probability she would never get?



We see time and time again millions of people without electricity after a hurricane and we kind of take it to be normal. Well, it is not normal at all. It certainly should not be like this. The power loss is due to the fact that electric network is done on poles. It is not just ugly, but in the regions subjected to hurricanes it is plane stupid. Electrical network should be underground. Of course, it is more expensive, but in the long run it will be cheaper, not to speak of inconveniences and dangers (sometimes to life) of loosing power for prolonged periods.

The same can be said about houses. We often see houses reduced to rubbles and again we think that this is what hurricanes do. Not at all. This is what hurricanes do to houses, which are built according to the standards of the well known tale of three pigs and a wolf. Look at the houses built in US: they are built of plywood, so no surprise they flow with the wind. Again, one should have the courage to introduce proper building standards in the hurricane zones.


Michael Moore and the Columbine

In his documentary, Moore spends a lot of time telling us, how easy it is to get a gun in US, how easy it is to buy bullets. He certainly implies that this easiness of obtaining weapons and ammunition causes Americans to kill each other by thousands. He starts crusade against K-Mart for selling bullets and forces them to stop selling bullets. He looks victorious, as if he saved many lives. Well, look at statistics for the years when K-Mart was selling bullets and for the years it stopped. I guarantee that this statistics was not swayed at all. Moore comes to Canada and sees that bullets here are as easy to buy, as it is in US, nevertheless, there are a lot less murders in Canada than in US. So, what was the point to bully K-Mart?

Then comes his interview with Heston. He poses to Heston a question, which undermines the main idea of his film, namely, he mentions that Canada has as many guns per person as US, but the number of people killed in Canada is much-much smaller and he asks Heston why. Old man can not really explain, but funny thing: Moore can not explain either and without this explanation, the whole fabric of his film crumbles and breaks into pieces. All what he reproached to Heston and NRA no longer make any sense.

Well, Moore, I can give you an even more startling example: in Switzerland every citizen by law is obliged to have a firearm in his house, nevertheless, they kill each other much less than even Canadians do. WHY?


Parents' experience

We are so dependent on technology these days that we became totally helpless when this technology fails. For example, millions of people in Florida found themselves without power and I saw them on TV complaining that without fridges or ice their milk and food gets spoiled. My parents during major part of their life did not have any fridge or ice, nevertheless, they managed to feed themselves and their families and nobody had any diarrhea. How did they do it? Very simple: boil your milk every day and this will do the trick. The same goes for your soup and other cooked food. Heat is as good as cold in food preservation.


Where are their men?

As usual, I ask questions, which nobody else does. We hear about over a million people in Sudan are running away from guys on camels, who pillage, rape and burn their villages. We are told that 5000 troops from other African countries would be enough to protect them. Now, elementary computation shows that out of a million plus refugees there must be at least 300,000 men sufficiently young to fight. If 5000 troops are enough to protect civilians, why don't they make 50,000 and do what men are supposed to do?

We hear that women, who leave refugee camps to get food or fuel are being raped. Again, where the hell are their men and why are they letting their women to go unprotected? After all, these abusers are not driving tanks or flying helicopters. They are on camels.

We know of another example. Well over 900,000 Tutsis were massacred in Rwanda. This did not prevent them to organize into an army and to drive Hutus out. Now Tutsis control Rwanda. I am not saying that men of Darfour should conquer the whole of Sudan, but why could not they protect themselves and their families?


I told you so

When Gomery commission started, I noted that he was initially appointed by Liberals, so one should not expect ant kind of honesty from him. The first Gomery report is out and as I predicted, it is a whitewash for those in power. Do you believe that a Minister of Finance could possibly not notice waste of $332 MILLIONS? I do not buy this story at all. Gomery wasted yet another $32 MILLION. Can you imagine, how many good things could be bought with $364 millions?

These kinds of "independent" inquiries should be stopped. They can not possibly be independent, as long as government is allowed to appoint the investigator. Any government should be investigated by the opposition and the opposition should appoint the commissioner.


Get your priorities straight

What amazes me in Canada, they never have enough money for really important things, like health care or education, but they always have enough money for crooked government things. We have a bitter strike of teachers in British Columbia, there is not enough money to pay them, but there was $332 MILLIONS to steal in sponsorship program and yet another $32 MILLIONS to investigate the fraud. Just one Gomery counsel Roy was paid over $1 MILLION per year. This million could provide about 20 good teachers.

Remember crisis in Quebec emergency services? All they needed to fix it was 20 millions. Government could not find the money, but there was no problem to waste $35 MILLION on the so-called Poitras commission. Ask yourself, has this commission changed anything at all? I bet you know the answer.

It was reported in the news that New Brunswick schools do not have money to change a faulty sink. Students have to sell chocolate bars door to door to collect money for this. On the other hand, Chretien's lawyers were paid over $440,000. Do a little arithmetic: how many sinks could be replaced using these money? Chretien is a lawyer himself, why would he need a lawyer if he did nothing wrong? I wonder whether Canadian people would ever say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!


Free advice to Gomery

Gomery appealed to the population for suggestions to be included in his final report. Here are couple of suggestions, free of charge. First, government should not be allowed to spend a penny on public advertisement. If government did something they want public to know, this is what press-conferences are for. They are free. Second advice to stop corruption: make any company, who contributed money to the party in power, ineligible for any government contract. In this field, appearance of impropriety is impropriety.

Do you think Gomery will include these suggestions of mine in his report?


Get smart - be humane

Almost every day the media are trying to scare us to death by coming avian flu pandemic. In the meantime, millions of perfectly healthy birds are getting killed in a quite brutal way. Since the virus still has not mutated into human-transmissible form, we can not even start making vaccine against this flu. We have numerous so-called animal protection societies and I do not hear any of them raises even murmur to stop this senseless killing of birds.

Indeed, we can not make a vaccine for humans, but we can certainly make vaccine for birds. This would eliminate the excuse to kill them and in the long run will be more profitable as well. I am not a specialist in this field, but it seems to me that if we protect birds, there will be much less opportunity for the virus to mutate into affecting humans. So, it will pay to be more humane.


Heroic escape

Each year in May and November we hear all the stories about Allies, whose heroic entry in the World War II changed the course of war and led to the victory. Nothing is true in this propaganda: in June of 1944, Hitler was kicked out of the USSR and part of Eastern Europe, he was essentially defeated. Allies entered the war for the sole purpose not to allow Stalin grab all of Europe and to share the spoils of war. They did the same in WWI by entering the war one year before its end.

There was little heroic in the way Allies fought Hitler: they got stuck in Ardennes and begged Stalin to start his attack earlier than he planned in order to attract part of German army from Ardennes to him. Stalin was happy to oblige. During the time Soviet army liberated Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania and conquered most of Germany, Berlin included, Allies still have not managed to liberate all major cities of Holland by the war end. The Dutch are still grateful, but this is just an indication of their nicety; which has nothing to do with the facts.

Then there was yet another fiasco with airborne attack near Arnhem in the Netherlands: dumb Montgomery sent British soldiers to a sure death. I saw recently a show entitled "Heroic Escape" about British, who stuck near Arnhem and managed to escape back to their Army. They did it by hiding in Dutch families, who helped them endangering their own lives and taking the food out of mouth of their children, while the whole Holland was starving. They were hiding, month after month, and shy Dutch people did not have the courage to tell these parasites to recall that they were soldiers and that their duty was to fight enemy and to die if necessary, rather than be hiding among civilians.

There is nothing heroic in a soldier running away from the enemy. Let us call a spade a spade: "heroic" soldier running away from the enemy is called coward.


About heroism

Some time ago, Canadian sub Chicoutimi has caught fire in which one sailor died. There were rumours that the crew forgot to close some holes prior to submersion, water got it and short-circuited some wires, thus creating fire. On November 15, all the crew was cited for heroism in fighting fire. Wow! Really? And how do you call the crew, which does not forget to close the holes and does not have fires on board al all?


"Never in the history of mankind" trick

Several months ago, all media was shouting that the latest revelations from South Pole are so devastating that we are all about to die. Several headlines announced: "Never in the history of mankind was the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so high." So, I decided to check, how exactly high is the present level just to see, whether we are all about to suffocate ourselves. I got copies of the scientific articles published in "Science" and started reading them.

Guess, what is the present level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: is it 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 50%? None of the above. Various sources give it at about one third of one percent (just for comparison, nitrogen is about 78% and oxygen is about 20% of atmosphere). Have in mind that carbon dioxide is not a poison, it is what every living creature exhales and what every plant inhales, because it is absolutely necessary for photosynthesis.

The media does bombard us with numbers, but only with those, which serve their dishonest goals: to create panic, because panic sells. We are told that each human exhales about 4 tons of carbon dioxide, which is 50 times the weight of average human being, so we feel like criminal polluters and fight with urges to stop breathing at all. I have never heard our "objective" media telling us the whole story or at least mention that without carbon dioxide all life will stop, because all the plants will die.

Now let us move to the part "never in the history". The articles published in "Science" claim to go back 650,000 years, reconstituting Earth's atmosphere composition from the air bubbles trapped in polar ice core. If we believe the presented graphs, the carbon dioxide concentration has always been fluctuating between 0.18% and 0.3% with periodicity of about 100,000 years. So, about 100,000 years ago, the carbon dioxide concentration was 0.3%, while now the maximum observed is 0.38%. Taking into consideration that there was no measurable industrial human activity 100,000 years ago, we should presume 0.3% of carbon dioxide has nothing to do with humans. Even if the remaining 0.08% is due to humans, this means that if we stop all industrial activity, we can not go below 0.3%, so what is all hoopla about?

There is one more detail: every data in the published graph presents not the carbon dioxide concentration at certain point in time, but rather average of 731 years. Notwithstanding the present concentration of 0.38%, if we take the average of the past 731 years, I am sure, we will not get more than 0.3% concentration and the conclusion will be that we now are at the same situation, as 100,000 years ago and there is really nothing to talk about. Another nuance: the age of ice is quite approximate and air bubble in it usually between 800 and 2000 years younger than the ice itself.

In addition, at least one of the articles states quite clearly that there is nothing abnormal in the present atmosphere. Of course, the media would not quote this opinion back to you. So, whenever the media is trying to scare the life out of you, read the original research and make your own conclusions.


Taking public for stupid yet again

Milosevic died in his jail cell, allegedly of heart attack. Some medication was found in his blood, which is harmful to the heart. The public is told that Milosevic himself sabotaged his health by taking this harmful medication, because he wanted to go to Moscow. This can be nothing, but a lie: a prisoner in jail has no access to any medication, which is not prescribed by a jail doctor, period. If he did have a harmful medication in his blood, this can only mean one thing: he was poisoned by jailers, who can put anything in his food, and had no idea this was done to him.

He was poisoned for one reason: his accusers could not prove his guilt, without admitting that Bush and Blair have to be placed together with him and be tried for the same crimes against humanity. This is why his trial was stopped and he was slowly killed. The problem is solved.


Stunning failure

Harper recently visited our troops in Afghanistan. He claimed the mission to be stunning success. Let us see. Canadian soldiers have been occupying Afghanistan for over 4 years by now. Canadian Prime Minister has to go there in stealth, like a thief, in total secrecy; all reporters had to promise not to report - what could be more humiliating? He needed to visit another base at a distance of 27 km from where he landed. He was too scared travelling by land, he had to use helicopters.

The media lies to us that it takes very long time to train Afghanis to provide security in the country. For God's sake, stop lying to us! When Taliban took power, they did not need any foreigner to provide security in the country. Canadian Prime Minister could visit Afghanistan then, as he could visit any other country, in the open and in safety. Karzai is not only unable to provide him necessary protection; he himself is still protected by American soldiers. This tells volumes. Saddam did not need foreigners to protect him, when he came to power.

The public just does not get it: when so many people are ready to kill themselves in order to kill you, you must have done something very, very wrong. Wake up, idiot.


Purpose-driven Warren

There was a lot of hoopla about Warren's book "Purpose-Driven Life". I repeated the title exactly, with the sign. If you did not notice this symbol, ask yourself, what it means and why Warren uses it? It means that these words were registered by Warren as trade-mark and if somebody wants to use them, Warren gets paid. So, as far as Warren is concerned, his purpose driven life has one clear purpose: to make as much money as quick as possible. To achieve this, he has for sale the following additional items: Purpose-Driven Life Album, Purpose-Driven Life Video Curriculum, Purpose-Driven Life Journal, Purpose-Driven Life Audio Pages, Purpose-Driven Life eBook, Purpose-Driven Life Scripture Keeper Plus, Purpose-Driven Church. Wow!

Throughout the book, Warren repeats to the reader that making too much money should not be the life purpose. Clearly, he does not apply this to himself. Whatever he can sell for money, he does. Even the title is protected: want to use "purpose-driven," pay money to Warren. If he followed the point he made, he should either distribute his book free of charge or at least donate all profits to good causes. Did he do that? He might lie that he did, but I am sure, he did not: the mark says it all.

Let us look deeper at the book contents. We read on page 23: "Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death.... God also planned where you'd be born for his purpose. Your race and nationality are no accident. God left no detail to chance. He planned all for his purpose." Well, if all is defined in advance, what happened with the so-called free will? If we can change nothing, including the day of our death, do you really need medication or healthy life-style? God has decided everything for you. On the other hand, God planned Hitler in advance, including Holocaust. Wow, this is not what one would expect from a LOVING GOD, is it? Though Bible never mentions it explicitly, it was God, who created all the microbes and viruses, and all terrible illnesses. Could a hateful God do any worse?

Read further on page 23: "God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes." Let us see. God created humankind and soon decided to kill all (Except Noah and his family). One does not kill what he did, unless he feels he made it badly (oops, mistake). Now, did he know in advance about it? If yes, he looks stupid, if no, he does not look that almighty. The new humankind was not much better, than the previous, so God decided to show them, how much he loved them by killing his own son. Does this look like a bright idea? Imagine that your neighbour comes to you to tell you that he decided to kill his son to prove his love for you. Would not you immediately call police and some other agencies?

It is not surprising that majority of people of that time did not appreciate his idea. As a matter of fact, his chosen people (Jews) after 2000 years still do not appreciate this idea. Many were ready to die, rather than accept Jesus. Either the idea was dumb or he chose wrong people (or both), oops, mistakes. The story of miscommunications does not end there. About 600 years after Christ, Muhammad claimed that God has dictated to him a new book Koran. No Bible book claims to be dictated by God. Again fiasco: Jews did not buy the story and neither did Christians. Instead, they started killing each other in the name of the same God and still do. Should not God finally realise his oops and introduce some clarity in the issue? One thing is obvious: some (or all) of these people are wrong.

According to Warren, there are 5 purposes, for which every human is made: Planned for God's pleasure, Formed for God's family, Created to become like Christ, Shaped for serving God, Made for a mission. One thing we should give to Warren: he knows a lot of verbs (planned, formed, created, shaped, made). The main claim: God made us for his pleasure, so that we worship and glorify him. Would you believe that God is so vain and shallow?

Warren writes on page 186: "The Bible must become authoritative standard for my life." Warren claims that culture, tradition, even reason should be disregarded, when they contradict Bible. This is exactly what Taliban and Al-Qaida said about Koran and Sharia, which prescribes cutting off hand of those, who steal. Here are some examples from the Bible. In Numbers 15:32, we read about an Israelite, who was caught working on Saturday. Jews did not know, what to do with him, so our loving God told Moses to stone him to death, and he did. Should we do that, Mr. Warren? Want more examples? Here is from Deuteronomy 22:18: if you have a stubborn and unruly son, bring him to the elders and they shall stone him to death. Good idea, Mr. Warren? And this is a pearl (Deuteronomy 25:11): "When two men are fighting and the wife of one intervenes to save her husband from the blows of his opponent, if she stretches out her hand and seizes the latter by his private parts, you shall chop off her hand without pity." Seinfeld could not have written it better.

It is quite often that Warren writes one thing and several pages later writes something totally opposite. For example, he writes that we are all God's children and that God loves all. On page 78, Warren writes: "God loves you infinitely more than you can imagine." Then on page 196, he explains that God promises that everything will end for good, but this promise "is only for God's children. It is not for everyone. All things work for bad for those living in opposition to God." Wow, God does not love everybody after all, does he? Should we presume that the two beheaded soldiers in Iraq lived in opposition to God? This certainly is not so, if one looks at my relatives. My father was an atheist; he went through the whole war (WWII) practically without a scratch; my grandparents on both sides were true believers and all perished in Holocaust.

As a rule, Warren takes from the Bible examples which suit him, ignoring those, which do not. On page 194, Warren writes that God could have "kept the three Hebrew men from being thrown into the blazing furnace - but didn't. He let those problems happen and every one of those persons was drawn closer to God as a result." Warren took the case, where the 3 Hebrew men were indeed thrown into a blazing furnace, but did not burn there. God kept them unharmed. Take the recent case of 2 American soldiers taken hostage in Iraq, tortured and beheaded. Do you think, they also got closer to God as a result? Does not it look like God abandoned them? If not, then try to describe, how abandonment would look to you.

Sometimes, Warren becomes totally idiotic. He writes on page 197: "The Bible says Jesus 'learned obedience through suffering' and 'was made perfect through suffering'." OK, let us start crucifying people to make them perfect. Good idea, Mr. Warren? Warren writes: "Why would God exempt us from what he allowed his own Son to experience?" Here is why, Mr. Warren. God knew that his Son would be resurrected in couple of days, so it was not really death, now, was it? If God cheated the public about death, he might have also used some painkillers as well. In this light, does the sacrifice of the Son look much of a sacrifice? One of Dostoyevsky protagonists was asked if he could torture a child to death if this would guarantee happiness for the whole humankind. His response was yes, but I should be this child. God's sacrifice would look more impressive, if he sacrificed himself, rather than his son.

We read on page 235: "You are God's handcrafted work of art. ... God doesn't make junk." Regretfully, Warren does not define the word "junk," but if you define junk as malfunctioning of any human organ, God does it in all possible variety. If you define junk as lack of moral qualities, God does it too in all imaginable ways. (I am pretty sure, someone will quip here that Fabrikant is the best proof that God does make junk; don't waste your time.)

Warren writes on page 236: "God gives every believer spiritual gifts." So, if you are not a believer, you get nothing, but on the other hand, without any spiritual gifts, how on earth can you become a believer? We have a vicious circle, which Warren just does not see.

Warren does not hesitate to use fraud, just to get his goal. On page 283, he tells readers that it was their duty to spread Christianity, and if they do not do it, God will hold them responsible. To prove his claim, he uses a quote from the Bible, which seems to support what he is saying. I checked this quote. It happens to be from Ezekiel 3:18. God appoints Ezekiel a prophet and tells him that if he sees someone living in sin, his job was to warn this individual to stop, otherwise, the individual would be killed; If Ezekiel failed to warn the individual, God would kill the sinner and hold Ezekiel responsible. It happened over 500 years before Christ, so God certainly did not mean spreading of Christianity. In addition, it was only applicable to Ezekiel, not to ordinary men.

In brief, Warren's book can be summarised simply: work in your church for free (God will pay you later), because Warren wants to save money and not to pay anyone. If you see someone, who is not Christian, tell him good news about Jesus in order to save him. In reality, Warren would like to have more parishioners to get more money. You have to lead a purpose-driven life and the purpose should be letting Warren to make as much money as possible. Warren forgot to mention that if you try to proselytise to a Muslim, this is a crime punishable by death. Be safe!


You can not have it both ways

I have heard on TV recently two explanations. One, why do we have stronger downpours due to global warming. Explanation: because warmer air can hold more water in it. Two, why do we have stronger droughts due to global warming. Explanation: because snow in the mountains melts earlier due to global warming, so no water is left. This reminds me of one anecdote about a person, who asked his neighbour to return a pot, which he borrowed before. Neighbour's response was that he never borrowed the pot and in addition, he returned it last month.

The situation with downpours and droughts is more complicated than that. Most of the rain comes in the fall, when it is relatively cold. The most arid places on the planet are usually not that far way from the ocean - huge reservoir of water, a lot of evaporation, and no rain. On the other hand, strong downpours do not need much snow in nearby mountains; they do not really need mountains at all. When relatively warm air meets with much colder air, you have a downpour. What counts is the difference of temperatures, not their absolute value.

It is a shame, how the so-called scientists play on our fears to grab some money. If you are old enough to remember 30 years ago, the scare of the day was global freezing.


Scientific Fraud with capital F

It started with a TV appearance of US cardiologist Nissen, who claimed a great achievement: reversal of heart disease. Wow! I immediately requested to see his article [1].

The authors selected 507 patients at 53 centres in 9 countries (Europe, North America and Australia). All tients were given rosuvastatin 40 mg/d. After 24 months, 349 of them were examined using Intro-Venous ltrasound System (IVUS). The authors claim "significant regression of atherosclerosis". Let us look at the numbers see how significant it really was. The authors claim the mean regression of less than 1 %. The authors did not have y placebo group, so there is nothing to compare with. They claim that it would be unethical to have a placebo oup. Well, if the situation is that clear, why did they need the study in the first place?

Luckily for us, A-PLUS study [3] did have a placebo group and its mean rate of progression was about 0.4%; it is 4% away from the "significant regression" result of [1]; which in this light does not look significant at all. If one kes a look at any IVUS picture, one would realise very quickly that it is so smudgy that 5% of error should be nsidered a remarkable achievement. Any scientist knows (or should know) that one can not claim an effect, which smaller than the error of the measurements. The situation gets even more funny, if we look at REVERSAL study [2] d realise that the pravastatin group there had a mean progression rate of about 1.6%, worse than the placebo group in -PLUS [3] study (about 0.4%). Should we conclude that pravastatin speeds up the atherosclerosis progression?

When I hear the word "regression", I presume an increase in lumen area due to decrease of atheroma area. This not the way the authors of [1] understand it. In their Fig. 2, they show an IVUS picture of an artery with atheroma ea 10.16 mm2 and lumen area 6.19 mm2. Two years later, they show the same artery with atheroma area 5.81 mm2 d lumen area 5.96 mm2. The authors of [1] claim a significant regression here due to the decrease of the atheroma ea, but since blood flows through the lumen area (and the lumen area has also decreased), how such a regression did nefit the patient remains unclear. This question was posed to the corresponding author Nissen. He refused to answer.

April 01, 2006

Yet another peculiar result is given in Table 4 of [1]. Here we can see that the patients with smaller HDL-C had eater regression that those with greater- HDL-C. (They claim that high HDL-C is better). The corresponding author issen was asked to explain this. Again, he refused to respond. Obviously, he was well aware of the faults of his udy and had nothing to say to defend it. The purpose of [1] is stated in its last sentence, and I quote: "These servations support the recommendation to administer very intensive statin therapy for high-risk patients with tablished coronary disease". Nissen even went on US and Canadian TV to sell the false hope of reversal of heart sease to trusting patients; majority of them would not bother to actually read his article [1]. His purpose was very ear: to entice patients to buy high-dosage statins.

Now we can answer, why was there a need to have 53 centres in 9 countries on 3 continents for a study involving little as 507 patients, of which only 346 had the final follow-up? Was it difficult to get 507 patients in just one untry? Of course, not. The purpose of the study was purely commercial: to sell high dosage useless drug to the eatest part of population, so they needed "researchers" (sales people) to sell the drug in the language of a given untry. The study deliberately did not touch the most important issue of morbidity and mortality, because it would ow that the dramatic reduction ofLDL-C does not make any difference in what is really important - saving lives.

1. Nissen, S.E., et ai, Effect of very high-intensity statin therapy on regression of coronary atherosclerosis. JAMA, March 13,2006, pp. EI-ElO.

2. Nissen, S.E., et ai, Effect of intensive compared with moderate lipid-lowering therapy on progression of coronary atherosclerosis: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 2004,291: 1071-1080.

3. Tardif, J.e., et ai, Avasimibe and progression oflesions on ultrasound (A-PLUS) investigators. Effects of the acyl coenzyme A: cholesterol acyltransferase inhibitor avasimibe on human atherosclerosis lesions. Circulation, 2004, 110: 3372-3377.


Blame the global warming?

The summer of 2005 at the place, where I am now, was extremely hot: the temperature since May to September almost every day was well above 32C. Everybody was blaming the global warming. This year (2006), less than 5 days were above 30C. The rest of the summer was at comfortable 25C or less. The Buffalo region got extreme amount of snow at the beginning of October. This has not happened in the past 100 years. Nobody was talking about global warming. Are we in a global cooling?

Last year, there were so many devastating hurricanes, that the Latin alphabet was used completely and people in charge of naming had to resort to Greek alphabet. Again, everybody was blaming the global warming. Specialists were predicting this year to be even more devastating. Guess what? Not a single devastating storm touched US this year. What are those "specialists" saying now? Where is the global warming to explain this calm? Just how dumb are we?


What happened to elementary logic?

I often hear some claims about the results of global warming, which make no sense. Here is one example. A "specialist" was complaining that the main Indian river Ganges has now much less water, than it used to have in the past, and the reason is global warming: glaciers in the mountains are melting faster than usual. This makes no sense: if glaciers are melting faster, than usual, then Ganges should have more water than usual, not less. In general, all the stories about disappearing glaciers might have nothing to do with global warming. Indeed, rivers are flowing for thousands of years, and they are flowing from the same glaciers. As big as they are, they are neither infinite nor eternal. If the amount of yearly snowfall is less than the amount melted during summer, glaciers will decrease in size, regardless of the average temperature.


Another example of absence of logic.

We often hear in the media reporting on a calamity that this flood or drought or heat hasn't been observed for many many years. The greater is the number of years, the more it is taking as proof as climate change. This makes no sense: if similar thing happened 200 years ago, when there was no global warming, then how does it prove global warming?


Turn down your thermostat in winter?

I have read recently that earth receives from the sun in just one hour the same amount of energy as the whole mankind uses during a year. If this is so, then even if we stop consuming energy completely, this would be equivalent to shutting down the sun for 10 seconds per day. Do you think planet would feel any different? Don't you feel stupid now for turning down your thermostat?


Book review: M. Gladwell, The tipping point, Little, Brown and Co., 2000

Gladwell claims to have revolutionised our view of the world by showing us, how little things make a big difference. From the scientific point of view, there is nothing new to it. In science, it is called an unstable equilibrium of a system. Such a system makes a huge leap when it gets even tiniest "push" in a proper direction (theoretically, the leap is infinite). Gladwell claims to discover, HOW this can be done in a specific situation. Had he really done so, it would have been a remarkable discovery. The reality is that his entire book reminds me an old anecdote, which was popular among scientists about 30 years ago. The anecdote goes like this. A physicist-experimenter comes to a theoretical physicist with a graph, depicting his results and asks the theoretician to explain it. Theoretician starts the explanation, then the experimenter notices that the theoretician holds the graph upside down and tells him about it. Without a shred of embarrassment, the theoretician turns the graph the right way and, as if nothing happened, starts explaining a totally opposite relationship.

Here is one example. In Chapter 2, Gladwell describes the trip of Paul Revere with a warning that British were coming. He claims that the trip was so successful, because Revere travelled at night, everybody he needed was at home and they understood that if somebody wakes them up during the night, it must has been very important and they hurried into action. I am pretty sure that, if the Revere trip was not successful, Gladwell would have easily explained it as follows: nobody likes being awaken during the night, their brains did not work properly and they could not appreciate the importance of Revere's news. Revere should have travelled earlier in the day.

Yet another example of this kind can be found on page 96. Gladwell describes an experiment to convince students to take tetanus vaccination. There were 2 groups: one was told regular information about tetanus, while the other was shown some very scary pictures of tetanus complications. None of these influenced students: only 3% took vaccination. Then both groups were given another pamphlet, where there was a map of the campus with Health Centre marked and its schedule attached. After that, 28% of students took the vaccination. Gladwell proudly declares that this was the "Sticky Point". I am sure that if something else worked, he would have equally proudly declared that one to be the "Sticky Point". Well, how to find that "Sticky Point", without knowing the answer?

Then Gladwell discusses how everybody is eventually connected to everybody else in relatively few steps (six degrees of separation). Again, this is valid only in certain conditions. If you try to connect someone from, say, Albania, who never went out of his village and does not know anyone, who did, to Kevin Bacon, the chain will stop then and there.

Gladwell describes the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, when 38 neighbours watched from their windows for over 30 minutes and nobody called the police. He explains this as a "bystander problem": the more bystanders, the less is the probability that someone would try to help. He describes experiments of psychologists, who discovered that when an emergency was watched by one person, the help was given in 81 % of case, while in the case of 4 bystanders, the help came only in 31 % of times. First, these experiments really prove nothing: if you take a different group of people, you get different percentage, different nations would react differently, it is impossible to generalize from just one experiment.

Last, but not least, in the case of Genovese, the people watching had no idea, whether somebody else was watching and whether somebody else called police or not, so they were not "bystanders" in the sense of the experiment. I can tell you though, what would have happened in Russia of 1964: nobody would call police, but 38 men would be running after the assailant at the first Kitty's shout and if they got him, he would never assault anyone again.

On page 74, Gladwell discusses a totally nonsense experiment by psychologist Mullen. He showed to some people excerpts of broadcasts of Brokow, Rather and Jennings, without sound, when they were talking about Reagan and Mondale in 1984. They scored Brokow and Rather the same, while Jennings was scored higher when he spoke about Reagan and lower, when he spoke about Mondale. Guess what, this is why Reagan won the elections! ABC was showing most negative pieces about Reagan, but Jennings was sending subconscious positive messages to viewers; people subconsciously took these messages and voted for Reagan. What could be more stupid than that? I was watching Jennings at that time, and there was no doubt in my mind, where was Jennings on Reagan: he most certainly was against Reagan, so if electors were influenced by Jennings, Reagan would have lost.

If you think, you saw the top stupidity, here is even more. Three groups of students were asked to listen to an editorial arguing for increase of their tuition. One group was asked to listen still, the other was asked to nod their head while listening and the third was asked to shake their heads from side to side. After the listening, they were asked whether they were for or against increase in their tuition. Guess what was the result. The group, which was not moving, wanted to leave the tuition unchanged, the nodding group wanted to increase it and the shaking group wanted to decrease the tuition. Here is my suggestion to anyone: who doubts this to be a top nonsense: make an experiment yourself. I guarantee you, you will not get even close.

On page 119, Gladwell discusses a girl Emily, who spoke to herself on a much more advanced level than she spoke to her parents and comes to the conclusion that all children can do it, and reproduces a story which Emily told at the age of 32 months. Well, Mozart was writing symphonies at the age of 5, so all children can write symphonies at the age of 5. Later in this chapter, Gladwell makes yet another discovery: everybody thought that children like watching animals, guess what, according to Gladwell, they do not. I have a problem with it: all zoos exist mainly because of children. Myself, I always liked watching animals, I am 66, and I still do. Is there any way to brake it to Gladwell that he can not make conclusion from just one experiment?

On pages 152-154, Gladwell describes the Zimbardo experiment where he made a mock prison at Stanford University and discovered that normal people due to circumstances all of a sudden became hard-rock sadists. The very first night, they woke prisoners in the middle of night and made them do push-ups. This is such a nonsense: I do not believe for a second that normal people would do it on their own. Most probably, they were told to do so by the experimenters. I have been in jail 13 years, no guard would do it on his own. This could be done in Abu-Ghraib, but again, it was ordered from above. From this experiment, Gladwell comes to a false conclusion that there is no such thing as character, since "good" people become "bad" in proper circumstances.

This is just not so: even in Abu-Ghraib, there was one individual, who decided to risk his life to expose what was going on there. Even during Nazi terror, there were people ready to risk their lives to save Jews. Character does exist: different people act differently in the same situation. Gladwell's error was that he instead saw that the same people act differently in different situations.

On page 159, Gladwell is trying to show that we are not very good at solving abstract problems, while we are much better at solving ones that are more specific. His logic though is not very strong. Here it is. I quote: "Suppose I give you four cards labelled by letters A and D and the numerals 3 and 6. The rule of the game is that a card with a vowel on it always has an even number on the other side. Which of the cards would you have to turn over to prove this rule to be true?" Gladwell claims that the answer is two: the A card and the 3 card and that majority of people do not give the right answer, answering either just A or the A and the 6. He blames for this our inability to process an abstract information.

He is wrong. Strictly speaking, the correct answer is 3 cards: the A, 3 and D cards. Indeed, since we have to presume that all combinations of labels are permitted, then it means that we might have cards marked A on one side and D on the other, as well as A-3 and A-A. This means that the only card, which does not need to be checked, is the 6 card. The remaining 3 have to be turned over. If we presume that the card A-D does not exist, then Gladwell's solution becomes correct. If we in addition presume that all A cards are the same, then the correct answer is 1 card A.

The real reason for the confusion is the ambiguous formulation of the problem. It is not clear, what is given and what needs to be verified. Different people presumed different additional conditions and gave their answers accordingly. Gladwell did not understand this, so he continues to prove his point: he gives a specific example. I quote: "Suppose four people are drinking in the bar. One is drinking Coke. One is sixteen. One is drinking beer and one is twenty-five. Given the rule that no one under 21 is allowed to drink beer, which of those people's IDs do we have to check to make sure the law is being observed?" Gladwell claims that here everyone gets the answer easy: the beer drinker and the sixteen-year-old.

Not so fast. Nobody told us that all 4 people were described to us. What if the 16 year-old and beer drinker is the same person, the 25-year-old and Coke drinker is the same person, and 2 people were not described at all? Obviously, we need to check totally different IDs. Gladwell claims that these 2 problems are equivalent. They are not: while we can imagine a card A-A or A-D, we can not imagine Coke drinking beer. All these psychological paradoxes are usually result of some poorly formulated problems. Gladwell just does not get it.

On page 176, Gladwell claims that humans are capable of distinguishing seven (magical number) things and this is why Bell made local telephone number of 7 digits. I do not buy it at all. With the area code, we have 10 digits and even more to call overseas. We can remember several telephone numbers, but majority of them, we need our address book.

Yet another equally stupid magical number is 150. Gladwell claims that this is the optimal size of a factory or group of apes or group of Mennonites. Hello, what about aunts or bees? They function quite successfully in much greater congregations. As a business proof, Gladwell describes a company called Gore Associates. All their factories are about 150 people, everybody is an Associate and nobody knows, who is the boss. Excuse me, they need to sell their products, they need to take a big order from another company. Who has the authority to sign cheques or contracts, anybody? Gladwell is taking reading public for stupid. Has he ever heard about big and successful plants, which employ thousands of workers under one roof? If yes, what about the magical number 150? Whatever does not fit his argument, he usually ignores. Sad.