Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ada Lovelace Day at Science in the Pub

By Kate Viscardi

Ada Lovelace Day is celebrated on the second Tuesday of October every year, while Science in the Pub (PubSci) meets on the third Wednesday of every month. Starting in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day was originally a day of blogging about female role models in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but quickly grew into events run around the country. PubSci sticks to its usual date but has an annual Ada Lovelace event each October. This year the speaker was Dr Charlie Lea who, a few years ago, used a PubSci audience as guinea pigs in her PhD research. Charlie is now a Psychology lecturer at the University of Brighton and returned to PubSci to take a different approach to commemorate Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace.
Despite her programmes for Babbage’s unrealised programmable computer, and Babbage’s own acknowledgement of his “Maths fairy”, Ada Lovelace was dismissed by many contemporaries in the early 19th Century and her efforts attributed to Babbage. Charlie took this as her starting point and discussed the way that women have been whitewashed out of the history of Psychology.
Educated women were regarded with horror in 19th Century society. G Stanley Hall said: “Educated women are functionally castrated”, but there were pioneers determined to succeed, and succeed they did. Nevertheless, they have still been largely written out. Charlie attributed this to the bias of misogynist historians and that women tended to work in under-valued areas, such as educational, social and occupational psychology. Much less famous than the “founding fathers” of the discipline, Charlie gave brief biographies of some amazing women.
Mary Whiton Calking founded the Psychology lab at Wellesley College and was already working on memory and synaesthesia at the start of the last century. William James taught her in his own home and described her as his best PhD student ever, but Harvard never awarded her PhD. No US university would let Christine Ladd Franklin into their Physics labs, so she switched to Logic and Mathematics and fulfilled the requirements for her PhD at Johns Hopkins University in 1882, but it was not awarded until 1926. She was introduced to Psychology in Germany and developed her own theory of colour vision.
Margaret Floy Washburn did ground-breaking work on the animal mind, including maze-learning rats. Lillian Moller Gilbreth, whose interests were in engineering and management theory (“time and motion”), left academia and together with her husband ran a consultancy company. Amongst other things she invented the pedal bin – and they also had 12 children.
Charlie summed up by saying that women invented important paradigms yet had difficulties even in being awarded their PhDs, getting lectureships or funding. They were influential teachers but the areas in which they worked were often devalued. They have also suffered from mis-attribution of their work, for instance by being described as “X’s student” instead of being given the dignity of their own names. And they continue to be whitewashed out. Finding little mention of women in histories of psychology, Charlie searched her university library for a book specifically about female psychologists and found just one, published in 1982 in the USA.
Science in the Pub meets at 7pm on the third Wednesday of every month, upstairs at the Old King’s Head, 47–49 Borough High Street, London SE1 1NA. Arrive early to take advantage of the pub's Happy Hour from 6–7pm. Our next speaker, on November 18th, will be Dr Michael Byford on Antibiotic Resistance.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mist, Rain and fiery haze

Film review: Macbeth

by Daphne Liddle

Directed by Justin Kurzel; starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki and David Thewlis. 113 minutes.

THIS IS a very powerful film which definitely benefits from being seen on the big screen. It is shot in chiaroscuro through the ever changing rain and mist against a backdrop of the glorious Scottish landscape, in which characters emerge from the mist, say their piece, do their deeds and then merge back into the mist.
The Bard’s original play has been edited a bit but all the important scenes are there, showing the familiar story of a good man, nudged by prophesy from the three witches, into ambition and an opportune murder that will set him on the throne and on the road to hell.
Once he has committed the crime he must cover up by committing more and more shocking murders until he has become a paranoid tyrant.
The play opens with the “Battle of Ellon”, close to Cruden Bay where in a real battle in the 11th century the Scots under their King Malcolm II (father of the King Duncan in the play) defeated an attempted Norwegian Viking invasion led by young Canute, later to become King of England.
A couple of scenes are changed from the original – the murder of Lady MacDuff and her children, as revenge for MacDuff’s defection to the camp of Malcolm, son of the murdered King Duncan, is not in her castle at Firth. Instead Macbeth has them captured and brought to be burnt at his castle at Dunsinane. This is a scene that drives Lady Macbeth insane with horror and guilt.
And in the final battle where Birnam Wood “comes to Dunsinane” it is not carried as branches for camouflage but set on fire and comes as fire, red smoke and a cloud of ash so that the final battle between Macbeth and MacDuff happens in a fiery red haze.
Throughout the film there are bystanders standing still, wrapped in long black cloaks against the wind and rain – impossible to distinguish man from woman – like a Greek chorus, witnessing everything.
The three witches are also dressed in long black cloaks pulled tightly about them. There is no Hecate but there is a girl of about eight-years-old with them. They appear from the mist, say their piece and disappear back into the mist.
In the final scene, after Macbeth is killed by MacDuff, Fleance, a young boy and son of the murdered Banquo, appears and picks up Macbeth’s sword – hinting that one day he will be king and be the founder of a long line of kings – including James I of England and VI of Scotland – for whose benefit Shakespeare wrote the play.
The three witches then appear, take a good look, turn and walk away with an air of “job done”.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pay-back time in Syria

IN JUST three weeks Russia’s war on terror has dealt devastating blows against the reactionary militias that were financed and armed by US imperialism, Turkey and the feudal kings of Arabia. While Russian jets pound terrorist positions the Syrian army has launched an offensive on all fronts against the brutal ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood gunmen who have spread death and destruction throughout the country over the past four years. Well over 1,000 have laid down their arms in return for an amnesty. Thousands more have fled back across the Turkish border.
This week Russian president Vladimir Putin and Syrian president Bashar al Assad met in the Kremlin to discuss the current situation and future action. Putin said that the Syrian people have been confronting terrorists “practically single-handedly” for years, withstanding considerable casualties but now they have achieved serious and positive results in this fight.
Assad thanked the Russians for their help stressing that political steps will follow military action. “The only aim for all of us should be what the Syrian people want as a future for their country.” Once the terrorists are defeated, it will take a united effort to rebuild the country economically and politically and to ensure peaceful coexistence for all, Assad concluded.
When Russia acted on the Syrian request for air-support we were swamped by the demands of the war-mongers and their media lackeys on both sides of the Atlantic for a robust Nato response to halt the Russian intervention — on the grounds that only Nato has the right to bomb Syrian terrorists, which in imperialist terms means only gunmen who don’t do the bidding of Washington and the oil princes. This was echoed by the “human rights” gang, who said little about four years of terrorist atrocities in Syria, but soon began bleating on about “civilian” victims of Russian air-raids and the fear of a direct Russian-American confrontation over the skies of Syria that could trigger a much wider conflict.
These days the imperialist media no longer possess the monopoly of information they once had. Russian, Middle Eastern and independent news reports can be watched and read by a switch of a TV channel or the click of a computer keyboard. People are now not so easily fooled by the lies of the imperialist media and public opinion in Britain and the United States is broadly behind the Russian intervention.
This has clearly been heeded in the United States. This week, the Americans signed an agreement with Russia regulating the operations of the two countries’ air forces in Syria. The deal is aimed at preventing incidents and providing for the smooth operation of the two nations’ aircraft, and for mutual aid in critical situations.
But clearly not in Britain. The Cameron government is openly considering sending the RAF into the fray to join the US-led operation in Syria, shamefully supported by a handful of Blairites in the Parliamentary Labour Party who hope to embarrass Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, with their treachery.
US imperialism is using every dirty trick in the book to bring down the Baathist-led popular front government in Syria which is the last Arab bastion of resistance to the American plan for total control over the Middle East and the immense oil reserves that lie beneath its sands. They’ve been thwarted but they haven’t given up.
The real purpose of the Nato-led operations over Syria is simply to prevent the Syrian Arab Airforce from attacking major rebel positions and to pave the way for the “no fly-zones” and “safe-havens” that the imperialists love to use as a pretence for open invasion and “regime change”.
The labour and peace movement must stand by Syria to make sure that Britain plays no part in it.

New Worker editorial 
24th October 2015

Democratic Korea in the struggle for freedom and independence

By Alex Meads
THE DEMOCRATIC People’s Republic of Korea, under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has always considered foreign relations an important policy area for the promotion of anti-imperialism and the cultivation of friendly relations between nations. The WPK has worked tirelessly to achieve cordial relations between all socialist countries since the inception of the DPRK. The WPK believes that independence, peace, and solidarity are the basic ideals of the foreign policy of the DPRK.
The party believes that the state should establish diplomatic as well as political, economic and cultural relations with all friendly countries, on principles of complete equality, independence, mutual respect, non-interference in each other’s affairs, and mutual benefit. The DPRK has long expressed solidarity with those nations who are fighting shoulder to shoulder with the DPRK against US Imperialism. 
With Cuba
One such example is relations between the DPRK and Cuba. The relationship between these two socialist countries is based on the spirit of proletarian internationalism. Cuba established diplomatic relations with the DPRK on the 2nd of August 1960.
There is a deep relationship between the Cuban and Korean revolutions and a friendship between the leaders of the two revolutions as significantly Ché Guevara and Fidel Castro have both visited the DPRK. Cuba was deeply inspired by the example of the Korean revolution and its armed struggle. In 1968 the World Cultural Congress in Havana adopted the document: The anti-Japanese armed struggle of the Korean People organised and waged under the personal guidance of comrade Kim Il Sung.
Fidel Castro was greatly inspired by the robust independence of the Korean revolution and he said: “The influence of the Korean revolution upon the peoples in Latin America and in other regions is beyond estimate.” Comrade Kim Il Sung recognised the importance of the Cuban revolution as it meant a breach had been made in the imperialist system in the western hemisphere.
Kim Il Sung confers a decoration to Fidel in Pyongyang
Cuba had carried out a revolution and was building socialism in the so called backyard of the US. Therefore a strong militant friendship developed between Cuba and the DPRK. This militant revolutionary fraternal friendship can be seen in the DPRK’s actions as well as its words.
In 1962 the US imperialists provoked the Caribbean crisis and because the threat of war was imminent many foreign embassies withdrew from Cuba but comrade Kim Il Sung instructed the DPRK Embassy staff and their families to arm themselves and fight to the end. DPRK students studying in Cuba did likewise and the DPRK sent military aid to Cuba. The DPRK also publicly supported the five-point demands of Fidel Castro, which included the US withdrawal from Guantanamo.
            Later in 1986 the DPRK supplied Cuba with 100,000 automatic rifles at cost price. The DPRK has also expressed anti- imperialist socialist solidarity through words. The great leader comrade Kim Il Sung wrote a special article for Tricontinental magazine on the 8th October 1968 one year after the death of Ché Guevara in battle praising his immortal revolutionary exploits. The DPRK always marks 8th October – the day Ché died and the DPRK produces posters and stamps of Ché. Also in Cuba today there is the Kim Il Sung Special Economic School, which indicates that the Korean people will always stand together with the Cuban people in the struggle against US imperialism. 
Helping Vietnam
The DPRK has always provided both material and ideological support to oppressed peoples fighting a war of national liberation against imperialism. One such example is the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War the DPRK provided substantial economic and military aid to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and Vietnamese students received education for free in the DPRK. As a result of a decision of the WPK in October 1966, in early 1967 the DPRK sent a fighter squadron to North Vietnam to back up the North Vietnamese 921st and 923rd fighter squadrons defending Hanoi.
Kim Il Sung with Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi in 1964
They stayed through 1968 and 200 pilots were reported to have served. In addition at least two anti-aircraft artillery regiments were sent as well. The DPRK also sent weapons, ammunition and two million sets of uniforms to their comrades in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
But it is not just in Asia that the DPRK has provided comradely support to friendly nations in their struggles against imperialism. For example in October 1980, Kim Il-sung and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe signed an agreement for an exchange of soldiers. Following this agreement 106 North Korean soldiers arrived in Zimbabwe to train a brigade of soldiers that became known as the Fifth Brigade. 
In Egypt
In Pyongyang there is museum gallery dedicated to the DPRK pilots who flew to defend Egypt during the Arab-Israeli war of October 1973. It’s a story well-known in the Arab world but perhaps not so well-known in the West and it began when Egypt, then the United Arab Republic, established diplomatic relations with the DPRK in 1963. Egypt at that time was led by President Gamal Abdel Nasser who championed Arab unity, the Palestinian cause and the non-aligned movement while leading his country along the path of socialist orientation.
            But Egypt was soon to suffer an immense setback. Israel launched a surprise attack on her Arab neighbours in June 1967. Within a week the Israelis had seized the West Bank from Jordan, Syria’s Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The Suez Canal became a fortified ditch after the ceasefire which soon erupted into static warfare known as the “War of Attrition”. Nasser accepted a new ceasefire in 1970 believing that US imperialism and the Zionists would abide by UN resolutions calling for a complete Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories. But nothing happened. Nasser died that year and he was succeeded by Anwar Sadat who continued the fruitless task of seeking a peaceful settlement while, at the same time, rebuilding the Egyptian armed forces.
            Egypt relied on Soviet arms and Soviet military advisers who applied defence in depth to deter Israeli war-planes that had regularly bombed Cairo and the highly populated Nile Delta during the War of Attrition. But though the Soviet Union had re-equipped the Egyptian air-force Egypt lacked experienced pilots with combat experience.
            Sadat spent 1971, what he called the “Year of Decision”, trying to reach a settlement of the Middle East conflict but Egypt and the other Arab states including Syria were persistently rebuffed by the Israelis who had no intention of returning the Arab lands they seized in 1967, let alone recognising the legitimate rights of the Palestinians they expelled and oppressed. Egypt waited another year. But when it became clear to Sadat and the Syrians that US imperialism had no intention of putting any pressure on the Zionist entity and was, in fact, encouraging the Zionists in their aggression, they resolved to counter-attack.
            The plan was for a limited push over the Suez Canal by Egyptian forces while Syria would strike back into the Golan Heights. The Soviets had helped establish missile blocks to cover Cairo and other densely populated areas. But Israel was armed to the teeth by the Americans and its air-force was reckoned to be the strongest in the Middle East. The new Soviet missiles, if fired in volleys, could hit the Israelis. But could the Egyptian air force deal with the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom all-weather fighter-bombers the Americans had given the Israelis?  Sadat and his air-force commander Husni Mubarak thought not, so they turned to Democratic Korea for help.
Great leader Kim Il Sung immediately agreed to the Egyptian request. His pilots, who all flew Soviet planes, needed combat experience and Egypt needed skilled fighter pilots. Egypt would supply the planes from its own squadrons and the DPRK would supply the men.
            The Korean People’s Air Force squadrons arrived in secret in 1972 disguised as engineers and mechanics. They flew Egyptian MiGs under Egyptian air-force colours. They brought their own air-controllers because all their commands were in Korean and they brought their own admin workers, even their own cooks. Their commander liaised directly with Husni Mubarak.
            In October 1973 Egypt and Syria paid the Zionists back in their own coin by launching a surprise attack that sent the Israelis reeling from the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights. On the Arab street they say the Korean squadron also knocked out an Israeli air-base in the occupied Sinai peninsula on the first day of the war. Some say the Koreans downed at least two Israeli warplanes. The operational details remain secret to this day. What is undeniable is that over 100 Israeli warplanes were shot-down over Egypt and Syria and that the Korean People’s Air Force squadron was in action defending Egyptian towns and military bases throughout the three-week war and never lost a plane.
There can be equally no doubt that the Democratic Korean contribution was significant in the overall effort to drive the Israelis back in October 1973. Though Sadat would turn to US imperialism and betray the Arab cause by signing a surrender peace at Camp David, Egyptian-DPRK relations went from strength to strength despite American protests.
In 1981 Sadat sent six Scud missiles, supplied to Egypt but not to the DPRK by the Soviet Union, to Democratic Korea in appreciation of the efforts of the Korean People’s Air Force. Korean engineers took the Scuds apart and gained valuable technical information, which helped jump start North Korea's missile development projects.
Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists in 1981 and he was succeeded by Husni Mubarak. Though the new Egyptian president remained in the American camp he refused to break with Democratic Korea. The Americans wanted Egypt to establish relations with the puppet regime in Seoul but Mubarak refused.
The Egyptian leader told Kim Il Sung that he would “not to establish diplomatic relations with south Korea as long as he (Kim Il Sung) lived”. Mubarak kept his word only establishing relations with south Korea in 1995, a year after Kim Il Sung died, at a time when the DPRK’s own efforts to engage the south Korean authorities were beginning to meet a positive response.
With the non-aligned movement
The US and its puppet allies would have us believe that the DPRK is isolated and without international support. But this is not true; the DPRK has cordial relations with many countries including Indonesia. This relationship begins during the 1960s when the struggle between imperialism and anti-imperialism became very intense. The great leader President Kim Il Sung did all he could to promote the struggle of the newly independent countries against imperialism for independence.
In April 1965 the great leader President Kim Il Sung, accompanied by comrade Kim Jong Il paid an official visit to Indonesia in April 1965 in order to strengthen friendship, unity and solidarity with the developing countries. The visit was part of the celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the historic Bandung conference which established the Non-Aligned Movement of third world countries. Although the imperialist forces had President Sukarno removed from power friendly relations have continued between the DPRK and Indonesia
The DPRK also maintains friendly diplomatic ties with Malaysia. In an effort to boost tourism between the two countries the DPRK announced that Malaysians will not require a visa to visit the DPRK and Air Koryo has regular flights to Kuala Lumpur. Recently, Malaysia's Bernama News Agency reported that the two countries will enhance cooperation in information-related areas.
The WPK has even pursued good relations with countries that many believe are firmly within the US sphere of influence, such as Singapore. In fact Singapore and the DPRK have extremely good relations. Many Singaporean companies have opened up businesses in Pyongyang and Singapore is also the DPRK’s 4th biggest trade partner. 
United action by all anti-imperialist forces
The DPRK has good relations with those big powers who oppose the US’s aggressive foreign policy, such as China and Russia. But the great leader President Kim Il Sung realised that the Korean revolution could only advance if the state fought against flunkeyism and big power chauvinism. This policy can be seen during the Sino-Soviet split. As the ideological conflict between China and the Soviet Union grew more aggressive Kim Il Sung emphasised: “We should establish our self-reliance more firmly.”
Syrian leader Hafez al Assad with Kim Il Sung
That was why he so extensively promoted the Chollima Campaign and also emphasised that an independent line was necessary in building the economy and culture. It is a testament to the Juché based foreign policy pursued by Kim Il Sung that the DPRK maintained friendly relations with both China and the Soviet Union during this period. Unlike other communist parties the WPK has not collapsed into revisionism. This is because it refused to follow the ideological positions of big powers and instead pursued an independent line based on the harmony of the party and people. This Juché-based foreign policy is a contributing factor why the DPRK is one of only a few workers’ states left in the world. The WPK’s stance of pursuing an independent ideological line but with a keen willingness to work with other anti-imperialist forces can be seen in the non-aligned movement.  

Kim Il Sung saw it necessary for a united action by all anti-imperialist forces. This lead to the DPRK joining the non-aligned movement in August 1975 at the non-aligned foreign ministers conference held in Lima, Peru. The non-aligned movement was formed by a grouping of developing countries who desired to be free themselves from the systems of alliances, blocs and pacts which were concocted by the imperialists during the cold war.

The DPRK capital Pyongyang became a venue for non-aligned meetings and summits and Kim Il Sung promoted bilateral and multilateral relations with the non-aligned countries. Kim Il Sung stressed the necessity of making the whole world independent and achieving unity within the ranks of the anti-imperialist forces on a global scale. This lead to the DPRK concluding 11 treaties with non-aligned countries such as The Central African Republic, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Togo, Angola, Libya, Ethiopia and Democratic Yemen between 1978 and 1984.
The DPRK also has had a proud tradition of promoting international cooperation throughout the decades. The DPRK has helped to train agro-technicians from many developing countries. Korean technical staff have worked in a number of African and Asian countries at a low cost to their host nation. At Kim Il Sung’s recommendation agricultural centres were set up in Tanzania and Guinea for Korean and African agro-scientists to conduct joint research projects.
The WPK’s Juché based foreign policy has meant that the DPRK is a country fully independent from the dictates of the trans-national corporations, the IMF and the World Bank. The DPRK is a model of total independence which is attracting the attention and aspirations of the developing world. Songun Politics proves to those who are fighting imperialism and colonialism that is possible to resist and win in the struggle for independence. The work of the DPRK in promoting anti-imperialist unity has provided a guide to those parties and movements, countries and peoples seeking their genuine national and social liberation from neo-colonialism and globalism.