The European Parliament: One of the Best Ideas a Briton Ever Had

November 14, 2017
Portrait of William Penn within the EU flag

William Penn was an Englishman who, in the 17th century, advocated the creation of an European parliament as an antidote to constant war between the nations of Europe. History has proven him right so far.

For those who wonder who first came up with the idea for the European Parliament, it was an Englishman, William Penn, in

“An ESSAY towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe by the Establishment of an European Dyet, Parliament, or Estates (1693)”. 

Penn advocated European unity as an antidote to the constant state of war between major European states that he knew in his lifetime. History has proven him right: the wars continued all the way until WW II. Shortly after, the European Coal and Steel Community was set up, leading to today’s elected European Parliament and the EU. Since the start of that process of integration, there have been no wars between members of the Union. This epochal achievement was recognised in 2012 with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.

Now, a major European nation is leaving the Union and the European Parliament for the first time. This is especially sad given that it was the success of the English parliament that inspired Penn’s proposal (note that in Penn’s time most European nations did not have their own parliaments). I very much hope that future events will not give further support to Penn’s ideas. 

Further reading

You can read Penn’s original essay here:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/penn-the-political-writings-of-william-penn#lf6418_label_735

There is an article about this in the Open Democracy website, here:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/daniele-archibugi/william-penn-englishman-who-invented-european-parliament

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Barcelona

August 23, 2017

Desatan su ira como demonios furiosos y aún así, horas más tarde, el Sol sale una vez más; un niño llora; juegan los cachorros; un pollito lucha por salir del cascarón y sus padres no serán capaces durante meses de querer hacer nada más que cuidarlo; el cielo nos regala luz, nubes, viento, granizo, arcos iris, copos de nieve; y en algún lugar un anciano cuya vida se está extinguiendo cierra los ojos pensando no en lo que le espera a él sino en lo que les queda por delante a los que deja atrás. 

Intentan destruirlo todo pero la vida sigue, florece, se desarrolla, y lo acapara todo, porque la vida, que es el amor, es la única fuerza verdaderamente avasalladora del universo. 

No son nadie, ni un mal gesto ni una puta mierda junto a un camino que seguimos todos, embarcados en una aventura de la que esas almas perdidas no han querido o no han sabido o no han podido formar parte.

En algún lugar llora una madre, llora un hijo, llora un hermano. Pero la Vida sigue, triste e inquebratable, henchida de más vida, dejando un rastro fulgente en el espacio vacío de la Muerte, su marcha inexorable a la conquista del Universo.


Merci!

May 7, 2017

To the French people:

Thank you on behalf of the many millions of tolerant Europeans for not giving in to the easy answers peddled by populist xenophobes. Once more, you have demonstrated your democratic maturity. Special thanks to those who have had the courage to choose what they judged the lesser of two evils.


Thank you

June 22, 2016

jorge_kent_european

Thank you. Whatever the result of tomorrow’s referendum, the last months have been really tough on EU citizens who, like me, decided to settle in the UK long ago and have found our legitimacy as members of this society under question, and under fire, and without any say in the matter. This has been difficult, but my many friends who have come out as staunch supporters of the role people like me play in this country have made it so much easier. I still believe, in spite of this dreadful referendum campaign, that the UK is one of the most open, tolerant, and advanced countries in the world. Whatever happens tomorrow, I do not regret the choices I’ve made: to raise my child as a Briton with dual nationality; to become a member and advocate of the UK scientific and academic community; or to let the love for this wonderful country seep in until it became part of who I am. But without my friends I wouldn’t be in such a good place. THANK YOU.


La inteligencia de las máquinas — Miguel Ángel Quintanilla Fisac

April 29, 2016

Estos días estamos celebrando en el Instituto de Estudios de la Ciencia y la Tecnología el seminario anual de doctorandos, en el que los estudiantes exponen y discuten los avances que han conseguido en sus investigaciones durante el último año. Allí se tratan multitud de asuntos relativos a nuestra cultura científica y tecnológica y se […]

via La inteligencia de las máquinas — Miguel Ángel Quintanilla Fisac


The terrorist’s problem

November 14, 2015

The terrorist’s problem is that they don’t have enough people on their side. That is why he or she resorts to terror. Their hope is that their outrageous acts will provoke an over-reaction. That over-reaction will have a prejudical effect on members of what the terrorists perceive as their wider constituency. That, in turn, or so their twisted logic goes, will mobilise more of that perceived constituency to their cause.

Let us break that logic. Let us stand with the French people, with their security forces, but also with the vast majority of muslims who want nothing to do with these abominations. Let us defeat terrorism.


Inspection copies

July 28, 2015

Some years go, I worked at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, in the campus that is now called the “Harwell Oxford”, and got there every morning through a long journey involving a short car ride to Banbury train stations, two trains to Didcot Parkway (change at Oxford) and finally what should have always been a short hop on the bus from the station to the laboratory, but often became the worst part of my commute, with long and frequent delays. Didcot itself had another campus, a hi-tech looking business park called “Milton Park”. I used to look at the Milton Park shuttle buses with envy: they were frequent, free and new, with a nice exterior designed to suggest that whatever went on inside that campus was very high tech. I always wondered what they did – though I suspected it wouldn’t be as cutting edge as what we did at RAL (neutron scattering, synchrotron radiation, high-power lasers, space hardware and my speciality – theoretical physics).

Today I have had my first conscious experience of a business based at the Milton Park campus. It is certainly academic-related, but I wouldn’t say it is very high tech. I had ordered inspection copies of a couple of recent textbooks by reputable authors, from a reputable publisher. I am revamping my teaching of Quantum Mechanics and I was hunting for an introductory text on the subject that would use a modern language (Dirac notation) but without burdening the students with large mathematical preliminaries at the start of the book. I received the copies from a company (not the publisher) describing themselves as a “book services” operation, with a bill enclosed and precise instructions to either adopt the texts, return the books within 30 days or else pay a hefty bill to retain the books for my personal use. Right, so that’s what they do there.

Basically, this company working from Milton Park offers outsourcing services to publishers. What they outsource is the provision of inspection copies to academics. But the standard at which this outsourced version of the service is provided is quite different, compared to what has been the norm in the academic publishing world. Normally, in my experience, academics are allowed to keep the book for free. Because I had to return it within 30 days, I had to make a hasty decision on whether to adopt the texts, without a chance to properly compare them to those offered by other publishers. Moreover, I had to re-package the books, etc. making me waste valuable time which could have been spent writing better lecture notes for my students or – Heavens! – even doing some research.

So, yes, I always suspected what they did at Milton Park was less cutting-edge than what we were doing at Harwell – but now I know at least one company there seems to be making a negative contribution to the progress of Science.