Friday, July 2, 2010

Volvo equipment: effective tool in the Israeli occupation of Palestine

Over the past few years, the use of Volvo equipment in Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes and the construction of the wall has been documented. The vice president of media relations & corporate news of Volvo Group, M. Wikforss, responded to an article in the Electronic Intifada on 2nd July 2007, saying that Volvo Group does not condone the destructive use of Volvo equipment and would regret the use of its products for destructive purposes. Wikforss also claimed, "we do not have any control over the use of our products, other than to affirm in our business activities a Code of Conduct that decries unethical behaviour." By Adri Nieuwhof.

In its advisory opinion on the wall of July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) reaffirmed the illegality of the construction of the wall and Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. According to the ICJ, construction activities should stop immediately and the wall and settlements should be dismantled. Palestinians who lost property because of the illegal construction activities should also be compensated for their loss.

The Volvo Group Code of Conduct states that "within its sphere of influence, the Volvo Group supports and respects the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and ensures that it is not complicit in human rights abuses." The use of Volvo construction equipment in illegal activities is a breach not only of international law, but also of Volvo's own Code of Conduct. Volvo Group is informed about the illegal practices of Israel in the occupied territories and knows about the Israeli military's use Volvo equipment in a destructive way. It is not sufficient to sit back and refer to a Code of Conduct. Volvo should be concerned and rather investigate how construction equipment can end up this way in the hands of the Israeli military. The company should enforce its Code of Conduct in its dealings at all levels. Volvo Group's Code of Conduct becomes a meaningless piece of paper when the company is not acting upon it. Meanwhile, the list of documented use of Volvo equipment in illegal activities of the Israeli forces is growing.

In January 2007, Volvo equipment was used in home demoltions in Silwan, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Activestills photographer Keren Manor took a picture of the equipment, which can be found here.

In March 2007, Volvo equipment was used in several home demolitions, including that of Abu Snena's house in Wadi-Qadum neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

On 25 June 2007, the unrecognized Bedouin Palestinian villages Atir and Um Hayran in the Naqab (Negev) were attacked by more than 1,500 Israeli soldiers. Hussein al-Rafay'a, head of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages (RUCV) in the Naqab, was arrested because he tried to block the Israeli forces and machinery from approaching the villages and its inhabitants. His colleague managed to take pictures of the demolitions, showing how the big, powerful, yellow Volvo bulldozers razed the homes of the Bedouin villagers to the ground (see picture here). At least twenty houses were demolished and properties were confiscated, leaving over 150 men, women and children homeless.

On 12th October 2009, Israeli bulldozers accompanied by dozens of armed forces arrived at the house of the Teriaqi family in Beit Hanina. Within two hours, they turned the home of the family into a pile of rubble. Next, the bulldozers and their armed entourage convoyed to a neighbouring 50 square meter oven bakery that belongs to Mr. Jehad Siam. The same procedures were followed: the area was sealed and evacuated, anybody who showed any sign of resistance would be detained and the way was cleared for the Volvo bulldozers to carry out the demolition (Report by the Coalition for Jerusalem, 12 October 2009).

In April 2010, Volvo equipment was seen being used by the Israeli forces to prepare the construction site for the wall around al-Walaja. The residents protested the confiscation and demolition of their property. The Israeli settlements of Har Gilo and Gilo, established in the 1970s, are built on land confiscated from the village. While Israeli forces try to silence the protesters with harsh measures, Volvo and Caterpillar equipment is used by the Israeli forces in the illegal construction of the wall on the village's land.

On 13 June 2010, Activestills photographer Anne Paq documented Volvo equipment performing its destructive job on the occupied Palestinian land of Al-Walaja (see picture here).

The Volvo Group is also involved in another activity in Israel. Through its Volvo Buses branch, the Volvo Group is providing armoured buses to transport Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Volvo Buses is co-owner of Merkavim Ltd., an Israeli transport technology company. Another shareholder in the company is Mayer's Cars and Trucks, the exclusive Israeli representative of companies from the Volvo Group. According to Merkavim's website, the company was chosen by Volvo as "its major body builder in the Middle East." The 'Who Profits from the Occupation?' project has reported that Merkavim manufactures an armoured version of Volvo's Mars Defender bus for the Israeli public transport company Egged. Egged uses the Mars Defender to provide bus services for illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel's wall in the West Bank confirmed that settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49 explicitly states that the Occupying Power is not allowed to deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. Bus services facilitated by Volvo subsidiaries facilitate the maintaining of illegal settlements in the OPT.
Adri Nieuwhof is a conultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.


~ Source: Corporate Watch ~

DFID in India VI: False promises

The final part of the Dodgy Development: DFID in India series by Eshwarappa M and Richard Whittell, published by Corporate Watch over the past few months, focuses on the British government's Department for International Development's funding of civil society organisations. This part comprises a film and two interviews. The film, False Promises, looks at the 'Business Partners for Development' project, funded by the DFID, which convinced people to allow a coal company to mine their lands with devastating results. In the two interviews that conclude the series, two people's organisation activists discuss why groups like theirs should not take the DFID's money and argue for the importance and necessity of international, people to people solidarity. Preceding parts of the series can be found here.

FILM: Dodgy Development: False Promises




INTERVIEWS

In this interview, Roma, a member of the Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, a land rights movement in Uttar Pradesh, talks about why it refuses to accept DFID funding and the compromises made by other groups that have accepted it.

Richard Whittell: The DFID lists ‘civil society’ among its partners in India and argues that by working with civil society groups it can give poor people a voice and help them in advocating their rights. As part of this approach, the department has given £25 million of British aid to the Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Programme, which it says is partnering with civil society in India to improve the uptake of rights and entitlements by women and socially excluded communities. Do you want the DFID’s money?

Roma: No, we don’t need that funding. Why should we need it? Through the kind of struggle that we are in, women have taken possession of many acres of land, thousands of acres of land, and we didn’t have any funding. They [the women] are coming with their own conviction that the land is theirs and it cannot be traded, it is not a commodity, it cannot go to companies. So they are recapturing their lost political space and they are raising their own resources. They are saying if we have land we can raise everything for ourselves: food security will be there, we can look after our education, our health, our water, sanitation, everything. And for that we don’t need any funding.

So why they are coming and funding women’s groups I don’t understand. And groups should not take that kind of funding. It’s really a trap. If we get into that trap we lose our struggle and our political movement also.

~ more... ~

Psychological research conducted in WEIRD nations may not apply to global populations

According to the study, the majority of psychological research is conducted on subjects from Western nations, primarily university students. Between 2003 and 2007, 96 per cent of psychological samples came from countries with only 12 per cent of the world's populations. The U.S. alone provided nearly 70 per cent of these subjects.

However, the study finds significant psychological and behavioral differences between what the researchers call Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies and their non-WEIRD counterparts across a spectrum of key areas, including visual perception, fairness, spatial and moral reasoning, memory and conformity.

The findings, published in Nature tomorrow and Behavioral Sciences this week, raise questions about the practice of drawing universal claims about human psychology and behavior based on research samples from WEIRD societies.

"The foundations of human psychology and behavior have been built almost exclusively on research conducted on subjects from WEIRD societies," says UBC Psychology and Economics Prof. Joe Henrich, who led the study with UBC co-authors Prof. Steven Heine and Prof. Ara Norenzayan. "While students from Western nations are a convenient, low-cost data pool, our findings suggest that they are also among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans."

The study, which reviews the comparative database of research from across the behavioural sciences, finds that subjects from WEIRD societies are more individualistic, analytic, concerned with fairness, existentially anxious and less conforming and attentive to context compared to those from non-WEIRD societies.

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Scholar claims to have unlocked 'The Plato Code'

A scholar unlocks a code buried within ancient Greek texts to discover secret messages left by a long-dead philosopher. This isn't the plot of the next Dan Brown novel, but the result of an English academic's five-year-long study of Plato.

Jay Kennedy of the University of Manchester claims that Plato (who died around 347 B.C.) wove a complex musical and mathematical cipher into the text of famed dialogues like "The Republic." According to Kennedy's research, which is published in this month's edition of the respected classics journal Apeiron, that code was used to hide the fact that the Athenian was a secret follower of the philosopher Pythagoras and shared his belief that the key to understanding the universe lay in numbers and math.

"Plato's books played a major role in founding Western culture, but they are mysterious and end in riddles," says Kennedy, a historian and philosopher of science. "In antiquity, many of his followers said the books contained hidden layers of meaning and secret codes, but modern scholars rejected this. I have shown rigorously that the books do contain codes and symbols and that unraveling them reveals the hidden philosophy of Plato."

Other academics aren't quite so certain that hidden meanings lurk beneath Plato's ponderings. "It's not impossible in principle, but I think I would need further persuasion," says Dr. James Warren, an expert in early Greek philosophy at Cambridge University's Corpus Christi College. "The question is, why should it be there? And what difference does it make to our understanding Plato's dialogues?"

Kennedy says he unwrapped the Platonic puzzle using stichometry, measuring the number of lines in the original text. Using a computer program, he was able to convert the most accurate contemporary versions of Plato's manuscripts into their original form, which would have consisted of lines of 35 Greek characters, with no spaces or punctuation. He found that the restored texts followed a curious pattern and had line lengths involving multiples of the number 12. "The Apology," for example, has 1,200 lines, "The Symposium" has 2,400 and "The Republic" has 12,000.

~ more... ~

The New National Security State

Editor's Note: In this exclusive excerpt from his forthcoming spy thriller, "Inside Out," former CIA operative turned bestselling author Barry Eisler "takes us on a tour of the darkest crevices of the new National Security State." As constitutional scholar and Harper's contributor Scott Horton notes, "Inside Out" is "a brilliant work of fiction - but is it really so fictional? Eisler's plot lines move dangerously close to real life; they are animated by a reality behind the headlines." -jl/TO

By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are. Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring.
- Evan Thomas, Newsweek

Of course, the United States is unique. And just as we have the world's most advanced economy, military, and technology, we also have its most advanced oligarchy.
- Simon Johnson, The Atlantic

L'état, c'est moi.
- Louis XIV
 

PROLOGUE
December, 2007

Ulrich stared at Clements, wanting to believe he'd misheard. Even in the grand panoply of CIA incompetence, this one would be a standout.

“Let me get this straight,” he said, deliberately speaking slowly and clearly so Clements and the rest of the Langley contingent assembled before him would understand exactly what Ulrich made of their collective mental acuity. “Ninety-two interrogation videotapes, and you're telling me they're just… missing?”

Clements shifted his weight from one foot to the other, the frozen grass crunching under his wingtips. “We think there were ninety-two. We're still trying to get an accurate inventory.”

Ulrich looked past Clements at the precise rows of thousands of white markers, their expanse dazzling in the brilliant morning sun. Well, at least now he understood why Clements had wanted to meet here. No one was going to notice, much less overhear, a small group of men paying their respects to the honored dead of Arlington National Cemetery. No records, no witnesses, no proof this conversation had ever happened.

“All right,” Ulrich said, running the fingers of a gloved hand along his thick gray beard. “First thing I need to know. What's on these tapes?”

Clements glanced at the man to his left and then at the one to his right. Stephen Clements, Michael Killman, John Alkire. The deputy director of the CIA, the director of the National Clandestine Service, and the director of the Counterterrorism Center. Half the bureaucratic firepower of the entire Agency, huddling in their dark overcoats like an incipient union of funeral directors.

~ more... ~

Find The Cost of Freedom (Daylight Again) by Crosby, Stills, & Nash

White House preparing national online ID plan

By Mathew J. Schwartz [InformationWeek]

The Obama administration is set to propose a new system for authenticating people, organizations and infrastructure on the Web. The online authentication and identity management system would be targeted at the transactional level -- for example, when someone logs into their banking website or completes an online e-commerce purchase.

Making such a system effective, however, will require creating an "identity ecosystem," backed by extensive public/private cooperation, said White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt, delivering the opening keynote speech at the Symantec Government Symposium 2010 in Washington on Tuesday.

"This strategy cannot exist in isolation," he said. "It's going to take all of us working together." Furthermore, "we should not have to dramatically change the way we do business -- this should be a natural path forward," he said.

That path forward will hinge on a new draft of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, due to be released Friday for the first time to the public, for a three-week comment period. Formerly known as the National Strategy for Secure Online Transactions, the report offers specific strategy and implementation recommendations, and may also recommend more sweeping policy and privacy changes.

The report builds on the Obama-commissioned Cyberspace Policy Review, which analyzed the government's information and communications infrastructure defensive capabilities. One of the report's recommendations was to "build a cybersecurity-based identity management vision and strategy that addresses privacy and civil liberties interests, leveraging privacy-enhancing technologies for the nation."

Simply issuing a Web-friendly biometric identification card to everyone in the country, of course, wouldn't necessarily make anyone or anything more secure, including online transactions. As the report also notes, to be effective, security tools and technology must be complemented by education. "There is always a necessity to do awareness and education of the end user," said Schmidt. "But you're not trying to teach the end user how to be a security expert."

India's city of widows

In the dark, damp back-streets of Vrindavan, more commonly known as the "city of widows", India's forgotten widows chant for their supper. For a few hours, their prayers earn them enough meagre rupees to survive. These women were once revered as mothers, sisters and daughters; some will die in Vrindavan without seeing any relatives again.

"She becomes a zero and all her powers are lost," says Mohini Giri, the former chair for the commission of women in India and a widow herself. She explains that many conservative Indian families see widows as a liability. Cast out of the family home, they live the rest of their lives in poverty and isolation. "When [a woman] loses her husband and becomes a widow, she loses her identity. A woman deprived, abandoned, malnourished will naturally have a high mortality rate."

For the more than 40 million widows in India – 10% of the country's female population – life is what some have described as "living sati", a reference to the now the prohibited practice of widow burning. Some are as young as 10 years old and are forced to spend the rest of their days in seclusion or earning a living through prostitution.

Only 28% of the widows in India are eligible for pensions, and of those, less than 11% actually receive their entitled payments. If a woman is not financially independent, she is at the mercy of her in-laws and her parents. And if they do not have the will or resources to take care of her and her children, she will be treated like an "untouchable". Financial aid is crucial to widows wanting to lead a self-sufficient life, but the government has failed to provide it.

Many of the 16,000 widows in Vrindavan have no choice but to beg in the streets. Traditionally, widows are only allowed one meal a day and renounce all earthly pleasures. However, Giri provides an alternative refuge and "ashram" for destitute widows in the state of West Bengal. "We break away from the traditional norms of widows being given one meal a day and not being allowed to have meat or certain foods such as garlic and onions."

Orthodox Hindus believe that both meat and certain vegetables have pulses that stimulate blood and are therefore impure. It is no wonder that deaths as a result of malnutrition are 85% higher among widows than married women, according to the Global Ministries Foundation. They are even expected to fast several times a month, sometimes eating nothing but fruit for days on end.

~ more... ~

Brought to you by the CIA - merica's drug crisis

Next time you see a junkie sprawled at the curb in the downtown of your nearest city, or read about someone who died of a heroin overdose, just imagine a big yellow sign posted next to him or her saying: “Your Federal Tax Dollars at Work.”

Kudos to the New York Times, and to reporters Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, for their lead article today reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan's stunningly corrupt President Hamid Karzai, a leading drug lord in the world's major opium-producing nation, has for eight years been on the CIA payroll.

Okay, the article was lacking much historical perspective (more on that later), and the dead hand of top editors was evident in the overly cautious tone (I loved the third paragraph, which stated that “The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raises significant questions about America's war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.”  Well, duh! It should be raising questions about why we are even in Afghanistan, about who should be going to jail at the CIA, and about how can the government explain this to the over 1000 soldiers and Marines who have died supposedly helping to build a new Afghanistan).  But that said, the newspaper that helped cheerlead us into the pointless and criminal Iraq invasion in 2003, and that prevented journalist Risen from running his exposé of the Bush/Cheney administration's massive warrantless National Security Agency electronic spying operation until after the 2004 presidential election, this time gave a critically important story full play, and even, appropriately, included a teaser in the same front-page story about October being the most deadly month yet for the US in Afghanistan.

What the article didn't mention at all is that there is a clear historical pattern here. During the Vietnam War, the CIA, and its Air America airline front-company, were neck deep in the Southeast Asian heroin trade. At the time, it was Southeast Asia, not Afghanistan, that was the leading producer and exporter of opium, mostly to the US, where there was a heroin epidemic.

A decade later, in the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, as the late investigative journalist Gary Webb so brilliantly documented first in a series titled “Dark Alliance” in the San Jose Mercury newspaper, and later in a book by that same name, the CIA was deeply involved in the development of and smuggling of cocaine into the US, which was soon engulfed in a crack cocaine epidemic—one that continues to destroy African American and other poor communities across the country. (The Times role here was sordid—it and other leading papers, including the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times—did despicable hit pieces on Webb shamelessly trashing his work and his career, and ultimately driving him to suicide, though his facts have held up. For the whole sordid tale, read Alex Cockburn's and Jeffrey St. Clair's Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press) In this case, Webb showed that the Agency was actually using the drugs as a way to fund arms, which it could use its own planes to ferry down to the Contra forces it was backing to subvert the Sandinista government in Nicaragua at a time Congress had barred the US from supporting the Contras.

~ more... ~

George Carlin - Saving the Planet

The Kalki Avatar Prophecy from the Vishnu Purana

“There will be rulers reigning over the Earth who will think of themselves as modern and superior; they shall rule through leaders of nations, and these leaders shall be men of vulgar, corrupt disposition, having a violent temper, and ever addicted to falsehood and evil.  They will inflict death on women, children and animals (through their wars and plagues); they will seize upon the property of their subjects; they will be however of limited and temporary power only as they will for the most part rapidly rise and fall in meteoric short careers; the lives of these leaders will be short, they will be physically and mentally ill from their insatiable desires and habits; and they will display but little of spiritual conscience.”

“The peoples of various countries, influenced by propaganda of their leaders, will follow the example of their leaders, and the Barbarians of materialism (in America and Europe) will be powerful in their patronage of the leaders of the less materially advanced countries; the more pure-minded and spiritual tribes (and social groupings) of their peoples shall be neglected and exploited so that those peoples shall be enslaved, suffer and perish in great numbers.”

“In all nations, wealth and spirituality will decrease day by day until the entire world will be corrupt, crooked and depraved.  Then property alone will confer rank or high reputation; money will be the only object of devotion and dedication in people; the vicissitudes of physical sexual desire will be the only and fleeting bond of union between the sexes; women will be regarded as nothing but objects of sexual gratification; and falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation.”

“The natural Earth will be venerated only for it's mineral treasures (such as oil); nothing but the Brahmanical thread in India will be said to make a person a Brahman; external clothing will be the only distinction of the level of evolution of human beings; dishonesty instead of genuine productive work will become the short-lived means of subsistence for people everywhere; weakness and irresponsibility will cause more and more people to depend on charity and the state wherever they can; political menace, conformity and intellectual presumption will be substituted for education; immorality and personal corruption will be the new false religion; mere external bathing and showering will be the substitute for internal purification; easily breakable mutual assent will be the only marriage vow of parents for rearing children and divorce with broken homes will ever increase; fine clothes and bodily physique will be the only human dignity; and only water in far-away holy places will be sacred, for the local water will be increasingly polluted.”

“Amidst all the natural castes (or levels of human evolution) the strongest in wealth and brute force shall rule over all principalities and everything will be done in a faulty way.  The common people, unable to bear the heavy taxation and other burdens of their greedy and oppressive governors and leaders shall take refuge in the remote countryside; more and more people will try to avoid polluted food, preferring to live on wild honey, herbs, roots and flowers, as well as the hunting of wild animals, fish and birds; but their poverty will increase as they are exposed to increasing extremes of freezing cold or hot droughts and fires from chaotic wind, sun and rain.  All this will become so severe that in most regions the average lifespan of life will be only twenty-three years from all the deaths taking place from various conditions.  Thus during the Kali Yuga Climax Period (just before the solar system enters the Ascending Dwapara Yuga) the general degeneration and destruction will accelerate to the point that the entire human race on Earth will be near annihilation.”

“When the spiritual traditions of the past are no longer practiced and the institutions of law and justice have become falsified and dysfunctional, the final closure of the Kali Yuga shall be imminent.  At that time, a Self of the Divine Being who exists in His own innate spiritual nature in oneness with Brahman, and who shall be both the beginning and the end of all spiritual ways, and who comprehends all the spiritual ways and philosophies and sciences, shall descend upon the Earth.  He will be a true Brahman (by inner nature) from Shambhala.  He will be known as Kalki, chalky (Caucasian), endowed with all eight superhuman faculties, siddhis.  By an irresistible Cosmic Force he will destroy the Barbarian rulers and leaders who are nothing but conniving thieves whose minds are devoted to evil.  He, Kalki, will then re-establish righteous harmony upon the Earth; and the minds of those who survive the end of the Kali Age shall be awakened into higher unprejudiced awareness and be clear as crystal.  Those men and women of that peculiar time of transition shall be as seeds of the emergent human race that shall ascend and evolve through the Dwapara and Treta Ages into a new Krita Golden Age.”

~ Source ~

Executive Privilege

The removal of General Stanley McChrystal from command provided President Barack Obama with the perfect opportunity to review the entire Afghan war strategy and declare it a failure.  That he did not do so means that the war now belongs fully to the president and he, in typical Washington fashion, will insist on something that he can describe as "mission accomplished."  The fighting will continue until Washington runs out of money and soldiers and is forced to craft together a phony peace settlement before leaving with its tail between its legs.  The whole world knows that United States foreign policy has become little more than a pathetic joke, a fact that is also becoming increasingly clear to many Americans who do not live inside the Washington beltway bubble.

Even if the long war finally ends some day, there will be no revival of the liberties enshrined in the United States constitution and the protections afforded by the rule of law.  This will be the most enduring legacy of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  It hasn't mattered which party has been in power, the objective of both has been to establish an all powerful executive that can operate without any constitutional restraints.  Since 2001, the creation of just such a central authority, fueled by an exaggerated fear of terrorism, has led to the dismantling of many of the freedoms that Americans enjoyed for over two hundred years.

President Barack Obama promised more openness and accountability in government but he has not delivered.  He has failed to abolish or significantly amend the Patriot Acts and the Military Commissions Act, which together make it possible to detain anyone indefinitely based only on suspicion. Obama's Justice Department has defended the government's use of the state secrets privilege to avoid having to deal with pesky lawsuits from civil libertarians and whistle blowers.  The Obama White House is, as a result, just as secretive as that of his predecessor.  And all indications are that it will only get worse as the Supreme Court slides to the right on the issue of executive authority.

New Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has described retired Israeli Judge Aharon Barak as her "judicial hero."  Barak is sometimes described as a liberal, but a review of his decisions reveals that he has always sided with the Israeli government in cases where arbitrary behavior by the state was being challenged.  He also established the legal guidelines that enabled torture by the Israeli authorities.  Kagan herself is of a like mind, favoring government prerogatives, executive privilege and secrecy even when there is no clear legal reason to deny access to information.  In one recent case Kagan successfully argued that the Supreme Court should overturn a New York appeals court ruling to permit the release of photographs of foreign prisoners being abused by their American captors. The American Civil Liberties Union argued for the release of the photos while Obama and the Pentagon against. Kagan, in her role as solicitor general, argued that US military personnel would be endangered if the photos were to become public.

~ more... ~

Musical Innerlube: Marilyn Manson - This is the new sh*t

How rules of physics in quantum world change when applied to classical world

Dartmouth researchers have discovered a potentially important piece of the quantum/classical puzzle -- learning how the rules of physics in the quantum world (think smaller than microscopic) change when applied to the classical world (think every day items, like cars and trees).

In a study published in the July 1 issue of the journal Nature, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Alex Rimberg and his colleagues describe one example of the microscopic quantum world influencing, even dominating they say, the behavior of something in the macroscopic classical world. They used tiny semiconducting crystals that contain two separate reservoirs of electrons to explore the different influences of both classical and quantum physics.

"We found that the motion of the crystals is not dominated by something classical like thermal motion, but instead by random quantum fluctuations in the number of electrons tunneling through the barrier; the fluctuations were the size of about 10,000 electrons," says Rimberg. "But the macroscopic world in this study also influences the quantum world, in that the vibrations of the crystal caused the electrons to tunnel in big bunches, more or less in sync with the vibrations of the crystal."

One major question in quantum physics deals with the connection between the microscopic and macroscopic worlds. Rimberg explains that scientists know that microscopic objects such as electrons obey the laws of quantum mechanics, while macroscopic objects obey Newton's laws. Researchers are still learning exactly how classical behavior emerges from quantum behavior as systems become larger and larger.

Rimberg says that the difference in size between the classical and quantum parts of thesystem described in this paper is really extreme. "To give a sense of perspective, we could imagine that the 10,000 electrons correspond to something small like a flea. To complete the analogy, the crystal would have to be the size of Mt. Everest. If we imagine the flea jumping on Mt. Everest to make it move, then the resulting vibrations would be on the order of meters."

~ more... ~

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