A row over using English in universities has blown up in France, where language is at the heart of the national identity
The front page of Libération, one of France's leading dailies, was printed entirely in English on Tuesday. "Let's do it," ran the banner headline. Sounding like a Nike slogan penned by Cole Porter, it in fact referred to a new bill, which, if passed, would allow some university courses to be taught in English.
Inside the paper (and in French), the editorialists urged their compatriots to "stop behaving like the last representatives of a besieged Gaulish village". The nod to Asterix – the diminutive comic-strip hero who punches above his weight thanks to his cunning and occasional swigs of magic potion – is highly significant. For decades, France has identified with the plucky denizens of Asterix's village, the last corner of Gaul to hold out against Roman invasion. This is how the French fancy themselves: besieged but unbowed – a kind of Gallic take on the Blitz spirit.
The reason Uderzo and Goscinny's books resonated at the time of their publication is that they replayed the myth of French resistance in the context of the cold war. This time around the invaders were no longer German or Roman, but American. Asterix's first outing (in a long-defunct magazine called Pilote) occurred in 1959, the year Charles de Gaulle became president, and grammarian Max Rat coined the word "franglais". My contention is that this is not purely coincidental.
France's identity has long been bound up with its language, more so possibly than anywhere else. This may be due to the fact that French is treated as a top-down affair, policed by the state: an affaire d'état, if you will. Language, for instance, is at the heart of the Organisation Mondiale de la Francophonie, France's answer to the Commonwealth. The flipside of a state-sponsored language has been a deep-rooted anxiety over linguistic decay and decline. The official custodian of the French tongue – the Académie française – was partly created, back in 1635, to counter pernicious Italian influences.
French nationalism was largely discredited after the second world war, because of the Vichy regime and collaboration. As a result, it often took refuge in cultural – particularly linguistic – concerns. De Gaulle's inflammatory 1967 speech in Quebec, when he took the linguistic battle into the very heart of enemy territory, speaks volumes. "Long live free Quebec! Long live French Canada! And long live France!" declaimed de Gaulle (en français dans le texte, of course). Quebec was repositioned as a besieged Gaulish village, and French as a symbol of resistance – perhaps even as a surrogate magic potion. For de Gaulle, liberating Quebec meant reversing France's defeat at the hands of the English in 1763.
My feeling is that France is haunted by its lost American future. Had the US fallen under Gallic domination, French would probably be the world's lingua franca today. Fears over the decline of French vis-à-vis English are exacerbated by the knowledge that the enemy is also within. Although the linguistic watchdogs regularly come up with alternatives to anglicisms – "mercatique" for "marketing"; "papillon" for "Post-it note" – American expressions are often adopted with far more enthusiasm in France than across the Channel. David Brooks's portmanteau word bobo (bourgeois bohemian) is more ubiquitous here than in Britain. Even more worrying, perhaps, is the French penchant for unwittingly redefining ("hype" for "hip") or making up new English expressions (brushing, footing, fooding etc.).
The unregulated flexibility of English probably gives it an extra edge in our ever-shifting digital world. As Susan Sontag once pointed out, French is "a language that tends to break when you bend it". It is significant that many young French speakers today should suddenly switch to English when writing a mél or courriel (if you'll pardon my French) to a friend.
So what is all the fuss about right now? The higher education minister, Geneviève Fioraso, wants to amend the 1994 Toubon law so that French universities are allowed to teach a limited number of courses in English (which is already the case in the elite grandes écoles and top private business schools). The main aim of this is to attract foreign students, particularly from rapidly expanding economies such as China, India, or Brazil.
Unfortunately, Fioraso committed an unforgivable faux pas – on a par with Sarkozy's disparaging comments about the Princess of Cleves – when the idea was first mooted in March. She warned that if teaching in English were not introduced, French research would eventually mean "five Proust specialists sitting around a table". This led to accusations of philistinism on the part of those who believe that sitting around a table discussing the works of Proust is precisely what being French is all about.
Not surprisingly, reactions have been far more favourable in the scientific community than in literary circles. The Académie française is up in arms over what it sees as "linguistic treason". Prominent academic and author Antoine Compagnon fears that the measure may lead to dumbing down, since most of these lectures would be spoken in "Globish" rather than the true language of Shakespeare. Bernard Pivot, who used to host a top literary TV programme (and belongs to the Académie), argues that French will become a dead language if it relies on English borrowings to describe the modern world. Claude Hagège, a renowned linguist, concurs, saying that France's very identity is at stake.
Roland Barthes famously described language as essentially "fascist", not because it censors but, on the contrary, because it forces us to think and say certain things. The idea that we are spoken by language as much as we speak through it is, I think, an important one here: French offers a different world view from English. Today, the symbol of British sovereignty is an independent currency. In France, it is an independent language, and that is indeed something to be cherished.Andrew Gallix
Renegotiation of contract with Chinese company mean more time for dig at former Buddhist settlement
The forts and temples of the ancient Buddhist town at Mes Aynak in Afghanistan throng with the biggest crowds they have seen in more than 14 centuries. Nearby, rows of sheet metal housing built for Chinese miners are almost empty.
Hundreds of archaeologists are working at the site to excavate gilded statues of the Buddha, elaborate stupas that rise from ornately carved floors and delicate frescoes protected by centuries of mud and forgetfulness. The rich vein of copper that once funded Mes Aynak's creation is now likely to bring about its destruction: a Chinese state-owned mining company paid $3bn (£1.9bn) for the extraction rights, and the site will eventually become the world's biggest copper mine.
But while the fevered excavations are a thrilling sight for those racing to save the last traces of Mes Aynak, the lack of activity in the mining camp is alarming financial mandarins in Kabul, who are counting on mining revenue to make up for slowing streams of western aid.
This year was supposed to see production of the first copper from the site since Afghanistan embraced Islam, the first gush of ore eventually forecast to bring $300m to the government each year, and a $1bn annual boost to the still feeble Afghan economy.
Instead, the only excavation on the site is of archaeological treasures and even the most optimistic officials and analysts admit it will be two years before Mes Aynak copper is trucked off to a Pakistani port.
However, others think 2016 or 2017 are more realistic, after a series of setbacks. The Chinese camp was evacuated last summer after a Taliban rocket attack and shows no signs of being restaffed, the ministry of mines wants to renegotiate the multibillion-dollar contract for the site, and the archaeological dig that must be completed before mining starts is still in full swing.
"Don't worry, you will have at least until 2014," one of the few Chinese miners who stayed on told archaeologists earlier this year. Others from China Metallurgical Group (MCC), the company with a majority stake in the mine, had a similar message. "The cultural artefacts are the most important thing," they told surprised workers on an impromptu tour of the dig site.
Nearby, mining equipment sits idle, and many of the watchtowers ringing the core of the mine are empty at midday, although there is an outer circle of guards from a special resources protection unit.
Such concern for another country's cultural heritage, unusual for a hard-nosed Chinese natural resources company, comes as Afghanistan braces itself for huge political and security upheaval in 2014. The last Nato troops will leave by the end of the year, and the country must hold a presidential election to replace Hamid Karzai, who has ruled for more than a decade but is barred by the constitution from standing again.
Any company looking at a decades-long project might prefer to wait for more clarity on who will rule the country, and how secure it will be, before starting work in earnest, although MCC did not respond to requests for comment on its plans for Mes Aynak.
The Afghan government may also be willing to swallow some delays as it looks to renegotiate a contract that has been shadowed by corruption allegations since it was signed off six years ago. The minister who agreed it resigned shortly after reports surfaced that he had pocketed a $30m bribe from MCC, which he strongly denied. .
"We have requested for the renegotiation [of the contract]," said the current minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, who has led a high-profile campaign to modernise the ministry and make its bidding process professional and transparent.
He declined to go into details on what changes he was seeking, saying only that the contract was several years old. "When it comes to these types of big projects, there could be a need for some type of what we call correction measures to be taken. But as of now we have not launched any formal renegotiation with them," he said, in an office lined with samples of the country's many valuable rocks, from lapis lazuli to iron ore.
The Chinese company was due to submit a new work schedule at the end of April, Shahrani said, and if work goes smoothly he believes production could start by 2015.
The cash is certainly needed, with World Bank forecasts for a $7bn hole in Afghanistan's annual budget after 2014, and the wider economy also suffering as US and Nato contracts dry up.
"When Aynak reaches full production the revenues to the government would be at least $300m … although it depends on fluctuations in the international copper market," Shahrani said. "In terms of its contribution to the national economy, the indirect contribution, it would be around $1bn."
But mining experts say that even if preparation work were to start in earnest this June, when the archaeologists' permission to dig ends, production is unlikely before 2016, given the preparation work usually needed for big mining projects.
"Big mines take on average between three to five years to build and construct," said a World Bank mining specialist, Michael Stanley, who declined to comment directly on Mes Aynak.
However, as long as the project is not called off, the wider Afghan economy will benefit from trucking, construction and any other work MCC contracts out, long before copper sales bring the government cash to balance its books.
"What everyone tends to forget is that the construction period for a mine, in terms of economic stimulus, is as important or more for the local economy than the production period," Stanley said.Emma Graham-Harrison
If we're fortunate that climate consequences will take a decade longer, we're still not doing nearly enough to solve the problem
In an opinion article for the London Times this past Monday, writer Matt Ridley discussed his interpretation of a new paper which suggests that the Earth's climate sensitivity may be a bit lower than current best estimates. Climate sensitivity refers to the average amount of warming that will occur at the Earth's surface in response to an increased greenhouse effect.
This new paper, led by Alexander Otto at the University of Oxford, suggested that the Earth's surface may warm a bit more slowly than climate models generally indicate. I roughly estimate that about 80% of the warming over the past century would be due to human carbon dioxide emissions, if the results of this study are correct. The good news is that Ridley has accepted the consensus amongst 97% of climate experts that humans are causing global warming and has moved on to examine the consequences.
One of the paper's authors, Myles Allen noted in The Guardian that the results of the study would make little difference with respect to long-term climate change.
"...our new findings mean that the changes we had previously expected between now and 2050 might take until 2065 to materialise instead."
If these results are correct, it would give us perhaps an additional decade or two to get our acts together and dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. From this news, Matt Ridley concludes that our climate policy is "hopelessly misguided." Those two words may indeed be applied to our climate policy, but Ridley has got it backwards. Or policy is misguided because we're not doing nearly enough to solve the problem.
He suggests, based on outdated references from Bjorn Lomborg, that the economic impacts of climate change are nothing to worry about. Cambridge economist Chris Hope tested this claim by running the climate sensitivity estimates from the new Otto paper in his economic assessment model, PAGE09. The model previously estimated the climate damage from greenhouse gas emissions at an average cost of approximately $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide. The revised estimate resulted in an average cost of $80 per tonne. Given that humans emit over 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, that amounts to an annual increase in committed climate change damage of $2.4 trillion, or over 3% of the global gross domestic product, quite contrary to Ridley's rosy perspective.
Ridley also argues that the harm done by policy falls disproportionately on the poor. That of course depends on how climate policy is designed; provisions are usually included to offset the impacts on the poor associated with slightly elevated energy prices resulting from climate policy. On the other hand, research has shown that poorer, undeveloped countries are the most vulnerable to climate change. Ridley has got it backwards again.
It's also worth noting that there are considerable uncertainties associated with the method used to estimate climate sensitivity in this new study. It uses the second approach discussed in my climate sensitivity primer – using recent observational data.On the Otto climate sensitivity estimate
We normally focus on equilibrium climate sensitivity – the amount of surface warming that will occur once the planet reaches a new balanced energy state, with equal outgoing and incoming energy. However, the climate is currently in an unbalanced state due to the heat trapped by the ever-increasing greenhouse effect. The Otto study and others using the same type of approach actually estimate what's called "effective" climate sensitivity, and then make certain assumptions under which effective and equilibrium sensitivity would be the same. Are these assumptions realistic and valid? The experts in the field who I have spoken to, including one of the authors of this new study, are unsure.
So we have two methods to estimate climate sensitivity – using data from past climate changes and using complex climate models – which consistently give us approximately the same answer. Then we have this third method which has given us slightly lower sensitivity estimates in several recent studies, but which may be subject to considerable uncertainties and potentially large biases. Ridley calls this the most robust method to estimate climate sensitivity, but that is a dubious and unsupported assertion at best.The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Nevertheless, the difference between these methods is a relatively small one, and their results mostly overlap within their respective margins of uncertainty. In any case, we are not doing nearly enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous climate change.
Ultimately the problem boils down to one of risk management. There remain uncertainties about how much climate change will occur, but uncertainty is not our friend. The possible climate scenarios we face range from somewhat bad to catastrophic. Climate contrarians like Matt Ridley believe the climate consequences will be relatively small, but it's just as likely that they could be catastrophic.
When faced with potentially dangerous scenarios, the smart course of action is to manage the risk. For example, to protect our assets and health we buy home and auto insurance, and we take driving lessons and wear seat belts. What are we going to do to protect the climate on which our society relies? The smart risk management course of action in the case of climate change involves a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, risk management has never been Matt Ridley's strong suit. Ridley was the non-executive Chairman of Northern Rock, a British bank that, in 2007, was the first in over 150 years to experience a run on its deposits. The bank had allowed itself to become extremely over-leveraged, with debts more than 50 times its shareholder common equity. Ultimately Northern Rock was bailed out, borrowing £3 billion from the Bank of England over the span of a few days in 2007. Ridley was unprepared for the worst case scenario when it came to fruition. Unfortunately if Ridley is wrong about the climate and the worst case (or even most likely case) climate scenario comes to fruition, there will be nobody to bail out the planet.Dana Nuccitelli
Figures of speech are to be applauded when used wisely, but start employing 'epicentres' and 'seismic shifts', and you're in danger
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, the former Labour Scotland minister, said the other day of Nigel Farage: "He is like a bull in a china shop and has just come into Scottish politics with flat feet and muddied the water." (The Ukip leader, heckled by protesters in Edinburgh, had been locked in a pub by police before being carted off to safety in the back of a riot van.) Such turns of phrase appear occasionally as fillers in the New Yorker, usually culled from the pages of lesser publications, under the heading: "Block That Metaphor!" It's sound advice, on the whole. There's nothing necessarily wrong with mixed metaphors, if they are well mixed: by flooding his china shop, Foulkes almost comes up with an evocative image, though he rather spoils it with the flat-hooved bull. But they are usually the result of carelessness or overambition, and either way make for baffling reading.
Metaphors don't have to be mixed to be a problem: any figurative expression, if it's overused or used carelessly, can be confusing or off-putting. (And, yes, it's true that all words are figurative, but it's also true that some are more figurative than others.) Wolcott Gibbs, on the staff of the New Yorker from 1927 until his death in 1958, once compiled a set of 10 guidelines for editing fiction. The last was: "Try to preserve the author's style, if he is an author and has a style." The third: "Our writers are full of cliches, just as old barns are full of bats. There is obviously no rule about this, except that anything you suspect of being a cliche undoubtedly is one, and had better be removed." One implication of this is that cliches are fine if you don't notice them; there is such a thing as prose that is too laboriously original. Metaphors, new or shopworn, work when they bring things into sharper focus. If they don't do that, they are best avoided. It's especially annoying when expressions that have a precise literal sense are used in an imprecise figurative way, so that meaning is lost from both. Some examples:
The epicentre of an earthquake is the point on the Earth's surface directly above the hypocentre, which is the point at which a fault first ruptures. It shouldn't be a fancy way of saying "absolute centre", which there's never any reason to say: "centre" will do just fine. Similarly, the word "shift" almost never needs to be qualified with "seismic". It also probably isn't a good idea to ask someone if the earth moved.
"DNA" isn't a more scientific way of saying "essence" or "soul" or "core of one's being". DNA is often called the "blueprint" of life; that's a good metaphor. No one would mistake the blueprint of a building for its essence. Come to think of it, no one would try to say a building had an essence. This isn't mere pedantry, there's an ideological problem with it, too. Saying that something is "in someone's DNA" is too often a way of saying there's nothing that can be done about it and pretending that that's a scientific fact.
A catalyst is something that speeds up a chemical reaction but is itself unchanged at the end of the reaction. Someone who sparks a revolution by setting themselves on fire shouldn't be described as a catalyst.
Ian Hacking, in The Social Construction of What?, made a "gentle protest" against such labels as "the culture wars" or "the science wars": "Metaphors influence the mind in many unnoticed ways. The willingness to describe fierce disagreement in terms of the metaphors of war makes the very existence of real wars seem more natural, more inevitable, more a part of the human condition. It also betrays us into an insensibility toward the very idea of war, so that we are less prone to be aware of how totally disgusting real wars really are." The "war on drugs" may have begun as a metaphor when Nixon declared it in 1971, but it soon became all too real. More trivially, the title of Martin Amis's essay collection, The War on Cliche, is self-defeating.
Food and recipes
In the words of Alan Partridge, "I promise you tonight we'll have a real half-pound cheeseburger of a show for you. And it's a cheeseburger that contains lots of meaty chat, a salad of wit and a flap of amusing cheese." At least there's no mention of an onion with layers that can be peeled back to reveal more onion.
Metaphorical journeys are so commonplace as to be pretty much unavoidable, though that's no excuse for such bureaucratic excrescences as "direction of travel" and "going forward".
The very metaphor itself. "Very" and "itself" don't help. Bang a drum as loudly as you like, it will never sound like an oboe.
The proverbial duck
Proudly owning up to a cliche ("water off the proverbial duck's back") or trying to conceal it ("water off a mallard's back") doesn't make the cliche any less a cliche, it merely draws unwanted attention to it. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – even if it's a mallard on steroids going forward with layers of onion woven into its very DNA at the epicentre of the war on geese – it's still a duck.Thomas Jones
A physicist has formulated a mathematical theory that purports to explain why the universe works the way it does – and it feels like 'the answer'
Two years ago, a mathematician and physicist whom I've known for more than 20 years arranged to meet me in a bar in New York. What he was about to show me, he explained, were ideas that he'd been working on for the past two decades. As he took me through the equations he had been formulating I began to see emerging before my eyes potential answers for many of the major problems in physics. It was an extremely exciting, daring proposal, but also mathematically so natural that one could not but feel that it smelled right.
He has spent the past two years taking me through the ins and outs of his theory and that initial feeling that I was looking at "the answer" has not waned. On Thursday in Oxford he will begin to outline his ideas to the rest of the mathematics and physics community. If he is right, his name will be an easy one to remember: Eric Weinstein.
One of the things that particularly appeals to me about the theory is that symmetry, my own field of research, is a key ingredient. Of course the idea that the fundamental particles of nature are intimately connected to questions of symmetry is not new. But despite the great successes of the Standard Model there remain some very strange questions that have intrigued physicists for some years.
The particles described by the Standard Model – the stuff of nature that is revealed in accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider – fall into three "generations". In the first generation we see the electron, the electron neutrino, six quarks and their anti-particles, making 16 in total. But then rather bizarrely in the second generation we have another version of these particles which look exactly the same but are heavier than the first generation.
The heavier version of the electron is called the muon. The physicist Isadore Rabi famously quipped on hearing about the muon: "who ordered that?" It didn't seem to make sense that you should have a heavier version of all the particles in the first generation. What was the logic in that? To compound things, there is a third generation heavier again than the second whose electron partner is called the tau particle.
One of the challenges facing fundamental physics has been to provide a natural explanation for these three generations. Weinstein's theory does this by revealing the presence of a new geometric structure involving a much larger symmetry at work, inside which the symmetry of the Standard Model sits. What is so compelling about the geometry involving this larger symmetry group is that it explains why you get two copies of something with 16 particles but also that the third generation is something of an imposter. At high energies it will actually behave differently to the other two.
Not only that, it also predicts a slew of new particles that we can start looking for in our colliders. The particles in the Standard Model have a property called spin. The particles we see in the three generations we've seen to date all have spin 1/2. But Weinstein's symmetry is predicting that we will see new particles with spin 3/2 exhibiting familiar responses to the nongravitational forces together with a slew of new exotic particles with familiar spin but unfamiliar responses to the forces of the standard model.
The mark of a good theory is that it makes unexpected predictions that can be put to the test. If the predictions are incorrect you throw out the theory. Supersymmetry, for example – one of the current proposals for how to go beyond the physics of the Standard Model – is beginning to look shaky because we aren't seeing what the theory predicts we should see. It is interesting that, if Weinstein is correct, you would be hard-pushed to stumble on this stuff in the huge slew of data being generated by the LHC. You'd never find this from going from data to theory. Theory is needed to tell you where to look.
The geometry around the symmetry group that Weinstein is proposing also gives us an explanation of another of the big mysteries of physics: what dark matter is and why we can't see it. Our current theory of gravity predicts that there is a lot more matter in the universe than the stuff we can see. This hidden matter has been dubbed dark matter because none of the other forces of nature seem to interact with it.
When the symmetry in Weinstein's model breaks into pieces there is one half that gets separated in the mathematics from the piece we interact with. The particles corresponding to this bit of the symmetry-breaking might account for a piece that has an impact on gravity but mathematically can't interact with the other fields, such as electromagnetism, making it "dark".
The beautiful thing for me is that Weinstein's symmetry group doesn't just appear out of nowhere. It very naturally emerges from his primary goal, which is to reconcile Einstein's Field Equations with the Yang-Mills equations and the Dirac equation. The Field Equations control the curvature of space-time and represent our theory of gravity, whereas the Yang-Mills and Dirac equations represent our theory of particle interactions on a quantum level.
Both theories have been incredibly successful in describing the physical world, but they are not compatible with each other. The prevailing attempts to unify the two have been to try to "quantise geometry" – in other words move the geometry of Einstein into the quantum world. Weinstein's ideas run counter to this trend and are more in line with Einstein's belief in the power of mathematical geometry. Einstein talked about his belief that the universe was made of marble not wood. Weinstein's proposal, which he calls Geometric Unity, realises Einstein's dream.
Although a fan of Einstein, Weinstein's theory is also the first major challenge to the validity of Einstein's Field Equations. It requires some courage to challenge Einstein, but Weinstein's theory reveals that just as Newton's equations were an approximation to nature so too are Einstein's. One of the intriguing things to emerge from the mathematics that Weinstein weaves while combining these theories is a solution to one of the other enduring mysteries of physics: dark energy and the cosmological constant.
When Einstein produced his Field Equations it was believed that the universe was stationary – neither expanding nor contracting. To make his equations work he arbitrarily had to stick in an extra term called the cosmological constant to ensure the universe stood still. When it was later discovered that in fact the universe was expanding he removed the term and dubbed it "the biggest blunder of my life".
But more recently we have discovered that not only is the universe expanding, that expansion is accelerating, being pushed by some unknown source we have dubbed dark energy. One proposal for the source of this push involves reintroducing the cosmological constant into Einstein's Field Equations. But this cosmological constant has always seemed very arbitrary and a retrospective fix.
Weinstein's new perspective gives rise to equations that provide a coherent mathematical justification for why this extra term should be there. And contrary to what people have thought, it is not constant. Rather, it varies with the curvature of the universe. We are in a relatively flat piece of the universe, which explains why the cosmological constant is so small.
Another term that was added retrospectively to the Standard Model is the Higgs field. Without the Higgs mechanism, certain particles in the model would be massless. So this extra term is added to fix the fact that we know that particles like the W and Z particles that control the weak force do have mass. Again, one of the beautiful insights to emerge from Weinstein's unification programme is a mass term that doesn't need to be added artificially. It emerges naturally from the theory.
There have already been feelings within the physics community that the Higgs boson we are seeing in the LHC might not be quite what we think it is. Weinstein's perspective might help us articulate what it is we are actually seeing.
It has been a privilege to be one of the first to see the ideas that Weinstein is proposing. This is such a major project spanning huge stretches of mathematics and physics that it will take some time to realise the full implications of the ideas. And just as Einstein's general theory of relativity took some years to stabilise there are likely to be modifications to the theory before it is complete. But for me what is so appealing about Weinstein's ideas is the naturalness of the story, the way things aren't arbitrarily inserted to make the theory fit the data but instead emerge as a necessary part of the mathematics.
Weinstein begins the paper in which he explains his proposal with a quote from Einstein: "What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world." Weinstein's theory answers this in spades. Very little in the universe is arbitrary. The mathematics explains why it should work the way it does. If this isn't a description of how our universe works then frankly I'd prefer to move to the universe where it does!
You can respond to Weinstein's new theory by leaving a comment under the accompanying blogpost by Alok JhaMarcus du Sautoy
Atlas drawn up by international experts aims to expand understanding of soil and how Africa can manage it sustainably
A team of international experts has drawn up the Soil Atlas of Africa – the first such book mapping this key natural resource – to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil, and the need to manage it through sustainable use.
They say that despite soil's importance, most people in Africa lack knowledge about it, partly because information tends to be confined to academic publications read only by scientists.
"There was an existing database on soil that had not been updated by soil science experts from Africa, so we asked them to provide us with new information, which we translated into a form understandable to key stakeholders," said Arwyn Jones, a member of the soil team at the land resource management unit of the European commission's joint research centre, which produced the atlas.
The project began four years ago, and involved experts from the European commission, the African Union (AU) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The atlas was released at the meeting of the AU and EU commissions in Addis Ababa last month.
Robert Zougmoré, regional programme manager for west Africa at the Cgiar research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security, says the atlas displays the diversity of African soil for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes.
"We documented all the different types of soils and mapped them so that our decision-makers at national and regional levels can use the maps to decide where to invest in terms of food production and urbanisation," he says. "Using the atlas, we can identify regions such as central Africa, some parts of west Africa, and southern Africa where a type of fertile soil called vertisol – which maximises crop yields – can be found in greater quantities."
Zougmoré tells SciDev.Net that most African countries have national soil bureaus that are inadequately resourced, making it difficult to generate new soil information. He is now calling for more support from African governments.
Peter Okoth, a Nairobi-based natural resources consultant, says: "Regional users [of the atlas] have the opportunity to know about trends, problem hotspots and patterns of soil distribution". But he cautions that unless users are properly trained, they may find using the atlas challenging.
Pedro Sanchez, project director of the Africa Soil Information Service (Afsis), and a soil expert at the US-based Earth Institute at Columbia University, welcomes the atlas as an "important tool". But he points out that because the atlas is not interactive, users may find it difficult to determine relationships between soil properties and their impacts.
"We are also working on another interactive, web-accessible digital soil map that covers all the non-desert areas of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Sanchez, adding that Afsis hopes to complete this project by the end of the year.
What are we to make of a man who left academia more than two decades ago but claims to have solved some of the most intractable problems in physics?
There are a lot of open questions in modern physics.
Most of the universe is missing, for example. The atoms we know about account for less than 5% of the mass of the observable universe - the rest is dark matter (around 25% of the mass of the universe) and dark energy (a whopping 70%). No one knows what either of these things actually is.
At the subatomic scale, we know there are three families of fundamental particles - called "generations" - and each one contains two quarks, a neutrino and a negatively charged particle (the lightest being the electron). But why are there three generations in the first place?
And the big one: why do the two pillars of 20th century physics, quantum mechanics and Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, not agree with each other?
Solving these problems, the last one in particular, has been the goal of many generations of scientists. A final theory of nature would have to explain all of the outstanding questions and, though many (including Albert Einstein himself) have tried, no one has come close to an answer.
At 4pm on Thursday at the University of Oxford, the latest attempt to fill the biggest holes in physics will be presented in a lecture at the prestigious Clarendon Laboratory. The man behind the ideas, Eric Weinstein, is not someone you might normally expect to be probing the very edge of theoretical physics. After a PhD in mathematical physics at Harvard University, he left academia more than two decades ago (via stints at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and is now an economist and consultant at the Natron Group, a New York hedge fund.
He may have an impressive CV, but Weinstein is in no way part of the academic physics community. He will speak in Oxford at the invitation of Marcus du Sautoy, one of the university's most famous and accomplished mathematicians who also holds Richard Dawkins's former academic position as the Simonyi professor of the public understanding of science. Weinstein and du Sautoy met as postdoctoral mathematics students at the Hebrew University in the 1990s.
Weinstein has been working on his ideas to unify physics for more than two decades, but he only shared them two years ago with du Sautoy, who since then has been keenly studying the mathematics. "I get so many letters and emails to me explaining big theories of the universe and I don't take them all so seriously," says du Sautoy. "Eric's been telling me the story of his ideas and what I immediately found appealing about them was the naturalness of them. You don't have to put in extraneous things. There's a beauty about it that gives you a feeling that there's a truth about it."
In Weinstein's theory, called Geometric Unity, he proposes a 14-dimensional "observerse" that has our familiar four-dimensional space-time continuum embedded within it. The interaction between the two is something like the relationship between the people in the stands and those on the pitch at a football stadium - the spectators (limited to their four-dimensional space) can see and are affected by the action on the pitch (representing all 14 dimensions) but are somewhat removed from it and cannot detect every detail.
In the mathematics of the observerse there is no missing dark matter. Weinstein explains that the mass only seems to be missing because of the "handedness" of our current understanding of the universe, the Standard Model of particle physics. This is the most complete mathematical description physicists have of the universe at the quantum level and describes 12 particles of matter (called fermions) and 12 force-carrying particles (called bosons), in addition to their antimatter partners.
"The Standard Model relies on a fundamental asymmetry between left-handedness and right-handedness in order to keep the observed particles very light in the mass scale of the universe," says Weinstein.
He says his theory does not have the asymmetry associated with the Standard Model. The reason we cannot easily detect the dark matter is that, in the observerse, when space is relatively flat, the left-handed and right-handed spaces would become disconnected and the two sides would not be aware of each other.
"Imagine a neurological patient whose left and right hand sides were not aware of each other," he says. "You'd have a situation where each side felt itself to be asymmetric, even though anyone looking at both halves together would see a symmetric individual whose left hand counterbalanced the right."
He proposes that dark energy is a type of fundamental force that could sit alongside gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces. This force pushes space apart and its strength is variable throughout the universe. Furthermore, Weinstein's theory predicts the existence of more than 150 new subatomic particles, most of them with exotic properties (such as electric charges that are greater than one, which is the maximum seen in nature at present).
Radical ideas that claim to solve all the problems of physics - so-called final theories of everything - have come and gone countless times in the history of physics and many are notable for emerging from outside the traditional world of university physics departments. In 2007, physicist and surfer Garrett Lisi made headlines when he claimed to have found a way to unify physics. Lisi's ideas never took off, because his theories did not make enough predictions that could be tested in experiments, the hallmark of a good scientific idea.
Weinstein has not shared his ideas too widely yet. Scientists who have seen some of the details similarly agree that there is some elegant mathematics in his 14-dimensional observerse. But it takes more than elegant mathematics to make a good scientific theory.
The current leading candidate to unify the fundamental forces of nature is M theory (also known as superstring theory), which proposes that all the particles we know of are actually, at the tiniest scale, vibrating loops of energy. Despite decades of effort from the cream of the theoretical physics community, however, M theory struggles to make any experimentally testable predictions.
David Kaplan, a particle theorist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has seen and discussed some of Weinstein's ideas with him. On the plus side, Kaplan says it is "phenomenal" that someone coming from outside academia could put together something so coherent. "There are many people who come from the outside with crazy theories, but they are not serious. Eric is serious."
But he says the theory is incomplete and should have spent more time being critiqued by academics before receiving any wider public attention. "What I would encourage him to do is modest things and take steps and commit to a physical manifestation of his theory – to say 'here is a set of instructions and a set of equations, do this calculation and you can make the following predictions.' And then see if his theory matches with the real world or not. He doesn't have enough of a case. What I'd like him to do is to keep working."
Edward Frenkel, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley, has been discussing Weinstein's ideas with him for the past year. "I think that both mathematicians and physicists should take Eric's ideas very seriously," he says. "Even independently of their physical implications, I believe that Eric's insights will be useful to mathematicians, because he points to some structures which have not been studied before, as far as I know. As for the physical implications, it is quite possible that this new framework will lead to new answers to the big questions, after necessary work is done to make precise predictions which can be tested experimentally."
Jim al-Khalili, a nuclear physicist at the University of Surrey who has seen a summary of Weinstein's ideas (but not the maths) is sceptical. He says Weinstein will need to do a "heck of a lot of convincing" if he wants physicists to take his ideas seriously. "My main concern with Weinstein's claims is that they are simply too grand - too sweeping. It would be one thing if he argued for some modest prediction that his theory was making, and importantly one that could be tested experimentally, or that it explained a phenomenon or mechanism that other theories have failed to do, but he makes the mistake of claiming too much for it."
Until Weinstein produces a paper, physicists will remain unconvinced and, crucially, unable to properly assess the claims he is making. His lecture at Oxford today will give more mathematical details and Weinstein plans to put a manuscript on the Arxiv preprint server - a website where scientists often publish early drafts of their work, many of which subsequently get published in peer-reviewed journals.
Du Sautoy defends the unorthodox way that Weinstein's ideas have filtered into the world and expects corrections and updates to become apparent. "We live in an age where everything has to be sealed and delivered and complete when it's delivered and complete when it meets a journal and, in fact, that's not how science is done," he says.
Einstein's theory of general relativity, he added, was not a finished product when first presented, taking a decade of evolution and discussion to get into its final form.
"I'm trying to promote, perhaps, a new way of doing science. Let's start with really big ideas, let's be brave and let's have a discussion," says du Sautoy. "Science is very much an evolutionary process and [Weinstein's] is such a wide-ranging theory and involves such a wide area of mathematics and physics, this is an invitation to say, 'This is speculative and it's claiming a lot so let's see where it can go.'"
Whatever happens, says Frenkel, Weinstein is an example of how science might change in future. "I find it remarkable that Eric was able to come up with such beautiful and original ideas even though he has been out of academia for so long (doing wonderful things in other areas, such as economics and finance). In the past week we have learned about an outstanding result about prime numbers proved by a mathematician who had been virtually unknown, and now comes Eric's lecture at Oxford.
"I think this represents a new trend. It used to be that one had to be part of an academic hub, such as Harvard or Oxford, to produce cutting-edge research. But not any more. Part of the reason is the wide availability of scientific information on the internet. And I think this is a wonderful development, which should be supported.
"I also see two lessons coming from this. The first is for the young generation: with passion and perseverance there is no limit to what you can do, even in high-end theoretical science. The other lesson is for me and my colleagues in academia – and I say this as someone who on most days takes an elevator to his office in an Ivory Tower, as it were – we should be more inclusive and more open to ideas which come from outside the standard channels of academia, and we'll be better off for it."Alok Jha
In Woolwich, a seemingly ordinary woman did something extraordinary. Her humanity may well have saved lives
At the scene of Wednesday's killing in Woolwich, Ingrid Loyau-Kennet got off a bus and spoke to the two killers, seemingly concerned only to keep them calm and stop them hurting anybody else. In photographs taken by other witnesses, we see her standing just a few feet away from a man holding a huge knife. Later, in an interview, she said she wasn't scared because the men didn't seem to be drunk or on drugs, but appeared extremely normal. They wanted to speak, so she let them. When her bus started to move off, she asked if there was anything she could do before politely taking leave. She then calmed the people on the bus, some of whom had, understandably, become hysterical.
Loyau-Kennet's only formal preparation for this moment seems to have been a course in first aid for her work as a Brownie leader. Still, she was somehow instinctively able to perform the task of an experienced hostage negotiator, even delicately asking one of the killers if he wanted to give her "what he was holding in his hand"– phrased in less discreet terms, a blood-soaked cleaver. In those few minutes Loyau-Kennet showed something like a super-human fortitude and presence of mind. To many of us, what she did may seem unthinkable. She somehow managed to draw on huge inner reserves of courage, to pull together a lucid understanding of the situation, and to act accordingly. Although, in clinical work, one often hears of people's surprisingly equanimous reactions to catastrophe, Loyau-Kennet's behaviour is striking because of the way in which it may have influenced the unfolding of events.
One of the most extraordinary aspects of yesterday's attack was perhaps the behaviour of everyone involved. The two killers didn't run away from the scene but stayed to explain themselves to anyone who would listen. One of them even apologised for exposing passersby to such horror. Witnesses later spoke to news cameras with a kind of numbed perplexity. The murder was presented to them as the logical outcome of an unjust situation, not as a bloodthirsty attack. The witnesses themselves apparently weren't in any danger at the time – although the assault wasn't necessarily over. The two men let everyone know that they planned to kill police who arrived at the scene. If the onlookers had in any way seemed to side with the law, they may very well have found themselves in trouble. Loyau-Kennet knew better than to show allegiance with the dead or dying soldier by tending to his body. She simply continued to treat the killers as human beings, even showing them kindness.
Hollywood films are full of scenes of heroism in extreme circumstances. We are fed endless representations of brave people doing the right thing. But something about the events in Woolwich doesn't fit the Hollywood pattern. First, the murderers are too civil, too "normal", not nearly furtive enough. And secondly, the witnesses appear to be affected by this matter-of-factness. Instead of panicking and running away they stay to speak, listen and even make films.
Of course, it's impossible to know how one would respond to such an unprecedented situation, but it would seem that the normal reaction to a man holding a bloodied weapon is to escape at speed. This is precisely what didn't happen yesterday. This must be, in part, because of the highly unusual stance taken by the killers, but also perhaps because of the exceptional nature of some of the people who happened to be there at the time. Rather than the macho, hyper-trained, lean-jawed heroes relentlessly dished up by Hollywood, we saw an exceptionally humane middle-aged mother act in a way that may very well have prevented further tragedy.
In terms of dealing with conflict, and limiting catastrophe in real-time, perhaps Ingrid Loyau-Kennet's behaviour can teach us a great deal. By acting with phenomenal generosity, grace and understanding, she seems to have helped to contain a situation that may easily have spun out of control. If only politicians and military leaders the world over could be so intelligent and careful.Anouchka Grose
The Apprentice is a very popular TV show despite everyone seeming to hate it. There are interesting psychological reasons for why this is the case
I saw The Apprentice once, many years ago. I didn't like it. I felt it was everything that was wrong with modern culture and the media in general. I vowed never to watch it again, and assumed everyone else would feel similarly. They did not.
Jump to the present day, and The Apprentice is still as popular as ever, going by the fact that my Twitter feed mentions nothing else whenever it is on. I try to follow intelligent, liberal, clear-thinking people. So why do they all get sucked in to The Apprentice? I've not heard anyone say they actually like it, if anything they seem to actively dislike it, but still they tune in every week without fail.
What strange psychological system is in place that makes so many people want to watch the antics of a number of strangers they claim to find repugnant? Is everyone a secret masochist? Does Alan Sugar have some sort of mind-control power? Is the BBC employing weapons-grade schadenfreude?
There must be some interesting psychological phenomena in play. This needs investigating. So, as someone experienced in numerous areas of psychology who is largely ignorant about the current format and cast of The Apprentice, I felt I was in a perfect position to offer an objective psychological assessment of it. Here are the notes I made from viewing the latest episode.
2 min: OK, we're barely out of the recap and already Lord Sugar emphatically says he believes "actions speak louder than words". But many of the physical actions humans can perform produce little or no audible output. A metaphor, or does he suffer from synaesthesia?
3 min: I'm thinking Lord Sugar may be using psychological methods to control the contestants and produce the most "stimulating" television. He seems the sort. Also, he strikes me as a cross between an ageing human and a belligerent Brillo pad. Just saying.
5 min: Lord Sugar calls the contestants at 5.20 am. Bit early, a possible attempt at sleep deprivation, leading to an unstable mental state? Also, all the contestants seem to live together in one house. I'm assuming this is something arranged by the show and not a massive coincidence?
8 min: They're visiting a farm, as you do. Details aside, Lord Sugar seems to persist in addressing the contestants from a raised level, so it's a set-up where groups of supposedly ruthless people stand assembled in uniform while a man with absolute power over them looks down and barks orders.
9 min: Lord Alan Sugar wants them to set up and run a farm shop, something completely unfamiliar to people who work in the economic/corporate field. Excessive environmental change can cause symptoms to worsen in delirium. Most of the contestants don't seem old enough for that to be a major concern, but then given the aforementioned sleep deprivation...
11 min: Maybe this friction between so many empty vessels is an attempt to generate large amounts of static electricity? Lord Sugar may want this to power some device he's working on. This doesn't sound like the most practical technology, but then again he is the head of Amstrad.
13 min: I don't think that guy Alex knows his eyebrows look like that. They must have drawn them on him as he slept for a cruel joke.
17 min: One of the women is on a farm and says the silage smells really nice. Maybe her insula or putamen is wrongly wired up?
19 min: Eyebrow guy showing obvious signs of dyscalculia. I'm sure that's not an issue for people who want to work with large sums of money.
21 min: There's a great deal of footage here of close-ups of vegetables and vaguely glamorous women. It's like being backstage at the filming of a Marks and Spencer's advert.
23 min: The phrases "Just use logic" and "Engage brain" have just been used with no sense of irony or self-awareness. Can the Dunning-Kruger effect ever be fatal? If so, we might not make it to a full series.
25 min: Announcer keeps saying "milkshake" and now all the boys are in a yard. Nobody has mentioned the obvious joke yet.
28 min: I appear to be watching a lot of dislikeable people buy fruit, at prime time on BBC1. This may be an ingenious form of propaganda by the junk food industry.
29 min: I am struggling to tell these people apart, for all that they don't really resemble each other. The programme may have caused some form of prosopagnosia. Either that or my visual processing system has just grouped them together as some diffuse mass of absolute-tittery. I believe the gestalt theory of visual perception allows for this.
30 min: They've got to sell ridiculously expensive slabs of buffalo meat or they'll lose the contest, and yet nobody has said "the steaks are too high". It's like I'm doing all their thinking for them.
32 min: Heavily made-up woman just asked a passing pedestrian "are you interested in some milk?" Freud would have had a field day with this show.
35 min: I don't think anyone would be willing to buy produce from a man in the street with the sort of eyebrows used to denote a cartoon character as "evil". How is it possible for a human to occupy the uncanny valley?
36 min: This show is instilling in me an intense loathing of these people and the capitalist system that produces and even rewards such individuals. This may be some clever use of associative learning by the BBC, subtly supporting its more socialist funding model. Good effort, if so.
37 min: It's no good; I'm going to need some booze to get all the way through this. Back in a second.
37 min: OK, here we go again. I couldn't find any proper alcohol, so am sucking on an antibacterial kitchen wipe. It'll do.
39 min: I just realised that "Lord Sugar" sounds like the main bad guy in a cartoon that promotes dental hygiene. This could be worth a fortune. If only there was some way to present my business ideas to Alan Sugar...
42 min: Lord Sugar just made two weak cowboy jokes in succession, didn't get a laugh either time and seemed genuinely surprised at this. This suggests some sort of short term memory failing. It's probably fine, but I'd get that checked.
45 min: This whole set up is clearly designed to create animosity; it leaves the Robber's Cave Experiment standing. Arguments are bound to happen when you put people in high-pressure unfamiliar scenarios in competition with each other where survival is maintained by criticising others. You'd have less chance of starting a fight if you deliberately spill the pint of a guy with tattoos and no neck.
46 min: The Stanford Prison experiment showed that people will tend to conform to the roles assigned to them by a legitimate authority, however unpleasant they may be. So maybe the contestants aren't awful people; they're just behaving in a way they think is what's expected of them? This does suggest that Alan Sugar has another set of contestants chained up in his basement though.
48 min: People seem to fall back on blaming others for their behaviour when they pretty much did identical things themselves. There is some serious attribution bias going on here, it's all over the place.
55 min: All the confident/cocky men in this seem to have some form of facial hair or stubble. This could be a fashion thing, or maybe the excessive stubble is a subtle ploy. After all, facial hair is the result of testosterone, testosterone makes you more masculine, more masculinity makes you the alpha-male, and people fear the alpha male, and fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side... sorry, seem to have wandered off there for a minute.
58 min: Lord Sugar just sacked someone. I think it was the woman one, but to be honest I've lost all ability to pretend I care at this point.
So there you have it, the Apprentice seems to be an ongoing experiment by a skilful but possibly mad mogul with a fondness for psychological manipulation. Of course, it's important to not make conclusions based on a single source/example.
Someone else can gather the data in future though. No way am I sitting through that again.
Dean Burnett is usually silent on Twitter when the Apprentice is no. See for yourself, @garwboy.Dean Burnett
The right to avoid questions from Congress has a long and contentious history. Just ask gangsters, Ken Lay … and Einstein
When IRS executive Lois Lerner asserted her right, under the fifth amendment, to avoid taking questions from the House oversight committee on Wednesday, she joined a long line of would-be witnesses to tell Congress to kiss off.
The tactic came into vogue in the early 1950s, when legislators developed a habit of dragging private citizens to Washington, accusing them of being commies and demanding they name other commies. The poor witnesses often found sweet refuge in the Bill of Rights.
Not every witness who has sought such refuge, however, has done so quite as innocently. In 1950-51, organized crime figures took the fifth to avoid testifying in the Kefauver hearings. The tactic has been used by felonious CEOs (Enron's Ken Lay), disgraced athletes (slugger Mark McGwire) and, yes, mid-level bureaucrats caught up in serious back-room dealing.
Legal scholars have debated, hotly, whether the fifth amendment even provides the protection Lerner and so many others have claimed. Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling professor of law at Yale University, has long argued against sweeping fifth-amendment protections in cases of congressional testimony. Amar has pointed out that while witnesses have a right to justice, society has a right to the truth. Writing about Lay's successful use of the fifth in 2002, to avoid disclosing details of how Enron cooked its books, Amar asked: "By what right do Enron bigwigs stonewall Congress?"
The Fifth Amendment prohibits a person from being compelled to be a witness against himself in any 'criminal case', but a Congressional hearing is hardly a criminal case … sometimes a truth-seeking society needs to be able to compel a person to speak outside his trial – in grand jury rooms, civil cases and legislative hearings, for example.
Amar proposes a "a narrow type of testimonial immunity" for congressional witnesses. The difficulty of threading that needle was illustrated at the Lerner hearing by an argument among oversight committee members as to whether she had forfeited her fifth-amendment protections by delivering a statement. As Lerner rose to leave, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), objected.
"She waived her right to testify by issuing an opening statement," said Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor. (He apparently meant that Lerner had waived her right not to testify.) "She ought to stay and answer questions."
Ranking member Elijah Cummings, (D-Maryland), also a lawyer, intervened.
"Unfortunately this is not a federal court and she does have a right," Cummings said. "And we have to adhere to that." Committee chair Darrell Issa excused Lerner, with the provision that she could be called back if it had been found that she had indeed, as Gowdy claimed, waived her fifth-amendment right.
Issa's staff will have to sort through a truly daunting overhang of case law if they are to answer that question. The argument wends through a bramble patch of supreme court precedent and heavy-hitting entries in the Journal of the American Bar Association.
A Harvard law school dean, Erwin Griswold, mounted the seminal defense of the practice in a 1954 essay titled The Fifth Amendment: An Old and Good Friend. Revolted by the personal destructiveness of the McCarthy era, Griswold drew a comparison between criminal courts and congressional hearings:
In our criminal courts, we would never think of requiring an accused person to answer questions. He doesn't have to take the stand at all, and if he does do so, he has the protection of an impartial judge, and the right to have his counsel speak in court on his behalf. Why should it be so different in a legislative inquiry, when the information that is sought relates to the witness' own conduct? … The more I think about this, the more it seems to me to be an unsound practice.
To those on the political right outraged today at Lerner's refusal to testify, there may be some consolation in the knowledge that the politics cuts both ways. In 2007 Monica Goodling, an underling in President George W Bush's justice department, took the fifth to avoid telling Congress about the Bush administration's sudden dismissal a year earlier of six US attorneys. A justice department investigation later concluded that the firings were inappropriately political; one of the dismissed attorneys seemed to have been fired for not aggressively prosecuting supposed voter fraud by Democrats. Goodling was implicated because she was one of the few to have been clumsy enough to explicitly describe the administration's plan in writing. She took the fifth, was never charged with a crime, and today she works in PR.
No less a figure than Albert Einstein argued against taking the fifth before Congress. In 1953 Rose Russell, a member of the New York City teachers union, was called to testify before a committee led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, the most famous circus barker in the American Red Scare. Russell wrote to Einstein, to ask him whether she should take the fifth. He replied that she should not, and supplied a bit of amateur jurisprudence:
The 5th Amendment was adopted in order to make it impossible for the judicial authorities to bring the accused to confess through means of extortion.
In the present cases, it is not a matter of violent extortion of the accused but a matter of using people as tools for the prosecution of others that one wants to label as "unorthodox" and pursue through an economic campaign of destruction. It is a misuse of Parliament's immunity, carrying out practices that should fall into the machinery of the judicial fury (police). This procedure absolutely contradicts the nature of the arrest, if not also its exterior form.
The individual is offered no legal middle ground for him to defend his actual rights. That is why I argued that there is no way other than revolutionary non-cooperation, like Gandhi used with great success against the legal powers of the British Authorities.
When in doubt, go Gandhi.