DAY 94: Axis

July 17th, 2014 § 0 comments

Just when I though I’d run out of things to worry about (rainforests, bees, floods, famine, England’s dismal performance in the World Cup), two sharp researchers at Nablus’s Al-Najah University presented me with something completely new. I quote:

‘Eng. Imad Al-Qasem and Dr. Abdul Razzaq Touqan have published a research article entitled: “Importance of Returning the Earth’s Axis to its Original Direction” in the International Journal of Geomatics and Geosciences (IJGGS). In the paper the researchers discuss the impact of the urban renaissance in the east, and specifically China, on the Sumatra earthquake in 2004 and the 2011 earthquake in Japan. These earthquakes have resulted in a deviation of the earth’s northern axis


towards the south, which has led to an increased exposure of the northern hemisphere to the sun (where most of the earth’s inhabitants reside). In turn this exposure has led to thawing of the ice in the Arctic, heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East’s exposure to drought, and other dire and threatening consequences.’

Screen shot 2014-07-17 at 18.04.17‘Three Boys’, Murillo, Dulwich Picture Gallery. (Irrelevant to the current discussion.)

What’s particularly worrying about this waltzing behaviour of the earth is that we can’t, as with global warming, feel guilt about it. Whose fault were those earthquakes? Maybe it was the Chinese and their global renaissance. A part of me – the what-the-hell-i-won’t-live-to-see-it-anyway part – feels a) that the axis is probably shifting all the time, (or am I thinking of the magnetic pole?) b) that we live with a constant barrage of earthquakes in both hemispheres which must surely even out in the long run.


This blog’s award for an Afghan novel whose heroine is a specialist in automorphic forms goes, surprisingly, to Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed. I felt particularly for the said heroine Pari, trying to get on with her Paris doctoral thesis with an innumerate alcoholic poet for a mother (not really her mother, sorry to give that away), and then realizing that automorphic forms also have applications in physics and topology. There’s inevitably a lot of stuff about the mujahideen and the Taliban, but you can skip that. Afghanistan is basically, in my opinion,


Taverna du Liban, Lane 3, Street 14 Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul

nothing but a headache; having read that, as Stalin wisely said, ‘A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.’ I can’t see how these Tajiks, Balochs, Pashtos et al. ever managed to convince sophisticated writers like Mr Hosseini that they constituted a nation. (Of course the same argument applies to the U.K. Do Londoners and Glaswegians have a common psychological make-up? Or as Marx said in a different context, de te fabula narratur.)

The point where the author’s research has slipped up is in the depiction of Pari as having to give up her work on account of her rheumatoid arthritis. I know quite a bit about both number theory and rheumatoid arthritis (not at first hand), and while the condition can force you out of work if you’re a pastrycook or a pianist, it shouldn’t stop you from fiddling with abstractions. OK, typing would be a problem; but you can get round that. Look at how Prof Hawking (him again) gets by, doing really hard stuff on gravity with a bad case of MND.



A frustrating day refereeing the annual ‘Hedge Fund Managers vs. Human Rights Lawyers’ football fixture. (Why at this time of year?) As always, the hedge fund managers had taken forward positions in the ball’s future and were way overextended, while the human rights lawyers were arguing that the offside rule is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Given that football is rarely an armed conflict, I doubt they had much of a case. I had to allow the hedge fund managers a penalty on the no-arbitrage rule (which they missed, since the ball had been replaced by a collateralized derivative which is hard to hit with a boot). They called in the Feds, with whom they have predictably good relations; the lawyers appealed to the ICJ, and the game ended in an unseemly mêlée.


We can call on Jalal-e-Din Rumi as an Afghan poet, since if I have my bearings right, he was born around those parts and wrote in Dari or Farsi or whatever you like to call it. So here, from the Kolliyaat-e-Shams-e-Tabrizi:

I’m not me, you’re not you, and you’re not me;

And yet I’m me, you’re you, and you are me.

Beauty of Khotan, I am this because of you:

Confused if I am you, or you are me.

 Confused? That was the point.
Departing from the Afghan theme, and not particularly related to our worries about the earth’s axis, here
is the Modern Jazz Quartet’s classic 1959 recording ‘Django’. If you can remember when this came out, good health to you.

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