Turns out, it *is* a river in Egypt

By Phil Plait | November 8, 2010 6:25 am

Y’know, when you looked at maps of Egypt in school, you could see the Nile cutting through the desert, but you didn’t get the real perspective of where the people were, what that river means.

Space travel makes that perspective a bit easier to soak in:

ISS_nile

[Click to enphaoronate.]

That, my friends, is the Nile delta as seen by the International Space Station on October 28. The station was well south of that area, about 800 km (500 miles) south if I’ve done the math correctly. In this oblique view facing north, you can see Cairo at the neck of the delta, the city lights blaring. The Mediterranean Sea dominates the northern (top) part of the picture, with Cyprus glowing above and to the right of the mighty river. Off to the right you can also see Tel Aviv in Israel and Amman in Jordan. The glowing arc at the top is airglow, caused when molecules disrupted by ultraviolet light from the Sun during the day recombine. It’s a thin layer you’re seeing here edge-on, so it looks like an arc of light.

Back on the ground, most of the land area around the river is dark, of course, because it’s desert. But you really get a deep sense of just how important this river is and was to mankind. It was the only source of fresh water for hundreds of kilometers, and it’s obvious why it became not just the center of civilization in the area, but also the foundation for such a great and long-lived one.

Of course, pictures like this are more profound for what you don’t see: country borders. Many astronauts come back from long-duration stays on the ISS with a deep new sense of citizenship not of just their country, but of their planet. I’ve heard several give impassioned talks about this. I sometimes wonder if this may prove to be the long-term benefit of space travel. I’m all for exploration, and getting off this planet to ensure the survival of our species.

But if enough people can get to space, they’ll see the planet for what it is: a fragile, magnificent ball with a thin shell of atmosphere protecting it from the entire Universe… and no artificial boundary lines to be seen. We made those ourselves, and we put an awful lot of stock in them. Remembering that fact might also be an important way to make sure our species endures.


Tip o’ the coptic canopic jar to NASA.

MORE ABOUT: ISS, Nile River

Comments (97)

  1. highnumber

    Beautiful sentiment. Thanks for sharing that. Great way start the day.

  2. Messier Tidy Upper

    Nice photo. :-)

    *A* river in Egypt? Surely the Nile is *the* river in Egypt – after all its not like there are are too many other’s in that land is it? Wadis (dried river channels) a-plenty sure but real honest-to-FSM-flowing rivers? Hardly! ;-)

  3. Messier Tidy Upper

    Quirky trivia fact for the night :

    The Nile has also been associated with the celestial “river” – & Ithink longest of all constellations running from Orion almost to the Magellanic clouds – Eridanus :

    Eratosthenes identified it as the Nile, ‘the only river which runs from south to north’. Hyginus agreed with this identification, pointing out that the star Canopus (which marks a steering oar of the ship Argo) lay at the end of the celestial river, as the island Canopus lies at the mouth of the Nile. But Hesiod in his Theogony listed the Nile and Eridanus separately, …

    Source : http://www.ianridpath.com/startales/eridanus.htm

    Other later astronomers also seem to have identified Eridanus with other rivers notably the Po river in Italy. Still, if any planets are discovered around Achernar or Acamar* – both stars similar names having the meaning “The end of the River” – I like to think someone might remember this and name one of them New Cairo. :-)

    ——-

    * Yes, neither Achernar, a massive B-type fast spinning & weirdly flattened star [ see : http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/achernar.html ] nor Acamar (Theta Eridani) a high mass binary of Sirian dwarfs [See : http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/acamar.html ] are at all likely to have exoplanets,certainly not habitable one’s given the timescales involved. Still ..

  4. Stan9fos

    Back in my younger days, I spent a year traveling with a musical group called “Up With People.” (Yeah, I know.) Our show closer was a song entitled “Moon Rider,” with lyrics inspired by Gene Cernan – “I see the world without any borders, without any fighting, without any fear…” Maybe a little over simplified, a little cliche’, but that was back in the 70’s. Sad to think that so many people still don’t get it.

  5. Oli

    @MTU: The Nile is ”’the”’ (wiki coding ftw) river of the world in fact =) It might be the longest river on Earth (there’s a wide margin in the length of the Nile and the Amazon, partially overlapping, so either might be the longest river on Earth)!

    Strange though how bright the desert is. Is that because of Moonshine? It’s not one dark spot, it’s possible to make out shapes there (I hope that doesn’t sound too wrong).

  6. “Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…”

    [John Lennon – Imagine]

  7. MSCharles

    Another cool way to look at it is if you have a Playstation 3 (I also believe it can be done with the Folding program on Windows 7).

    There is a program called Life with Playstation that allows your system to be used for protein folding in disease research.

    When you start the program, there is a setting that lets you look at a satellite image of all the systems currently using the program represented with little yellow lights. It looks just like that photo!

  8. DrFlimmer

    Phil, your very last paragraph is a very important message, maybe one of the most important messages of all! Hopefully, many more people start to think about these few lines!
    When do some folks begin to realise that boundaries are nothing, that countries mean practically nothing? The “others” are just the same as you are!
    Thanks for the article, Phil, it’s a good one!

  9. Happy Camper

    Look at all the light pollution.

  10. hhEB06'1

    Artificial boundary line: bhttp://therogersinhaiti.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/haiti-and-the-environment/

  11. Weird fact o’ the day: Egyptians have an odd relationship to lights at night…when driving! The custom is (or maybe was…things might have changed since I was last there nearly 20 years ago) to leave your car’s headlights off while driving on the highways. It “blinds the oncoming drivers”, so my Egyptian friend said. Driving on the Salah Salem highway alongside the city of the dead at midnight, with trucks and minivans (a.k.a. “Flying Coffins”) zooming past in the darkness is quite the experience.

  12. Of course, pictures like this are more profound for what you don’t see: country borders.

    You got that right, Phil.

    I’m all for exploration, and getting off this planet to ensure the survival of our species.

    “But it costs too much”
    “What about the poor people?”
    “I’ve got a bone in my foot”
    …and other lame excuses.

    But if enough people can get to space, they’ll see the planet for what it is: a fragile, magnificent ball with a thin shell of atmosphere protecting it from the entire Universe… and no artificial boundary lines to be seen.

    A beautiful sentiment Phil, and one that I passionately believe in. Though outside of Sci-Fi, there is no dream of mining the asteroids for resources or waking up under strange dawns, or even just looking to see what is there.

    Sadly, there is no political will. Governments can only see as far as the end of their budget, and don’t really consider that an investment that may take 25 or even 50 years to provide a return, is a worthwhile venture – even though that investment may provide a higher return than gambling on the markets, or taking control of another state in order to exploit their natural resources.

    We made those [boundaries] ourselves, and we put an awful lot of stock in them. Remembering that fact might also be an important way to make sure our species endures.

    As Heinlein said, “the Earth is too fragile…” etc. But, sadly, we are too possessive. “It’s mine! Keep out! I’m not leaving!”

    If someone asked me tomorrow if I wanted to go on a (subjective) 50 year constant-acceleration round-trip to Proxima, just to see what was there, I wouldn’t hesitate to say a resounding “YES!”

  13. MarkW

    Wonderful sentiment.

  14. Doc

    Don’t tell the politicians that you can’t see the borders from space, or they’ll pass laws requiring them to be painted neon orange, 50 miles wide.

  15. If you ask me it looks like they have a light pollution problem.

  16. Terry

    @ Kuhnigget: Driving around in Egypt really scared the heck out of me! I just simply didn’t go out at night and tried to avoid driving in Cairo as well. Alexandria wasn’t bad though.

    @ Al Feersum: I do wish that we had more investment in science and space exploration as a whole. I wish that private industry did more to make the big leaps of scientific development rather than small refinements. Science education needs a new order of development in the states. We need new Einsteins or Sagans to make science cool.

    @ concept that borders are bad: Respect for diversity means respect for borders and rights and property. You can’t have life and liberty without the right to property. That means that borders aren’t bad any more than private property is bad. Borders need to be more open, but they need to be more respected as well (good fences make good neighbors). That said, I would love to see a greater world order provide for respectful unity, where individual rights and property is respected whereever and whenever it can be.

  17. I just thought (ka-chunk!) of another cool thing this photo illustrates. Each of those “lights” you see is not the actual light fixture, but the collective light of dozens, if not hundreds of lights. You’re seeing the light itself, not the lights.

    Same thing with most of the stars in the sky. You’re not seeing the “stars”, rather the light they are giving off.

  18. QuietDesperation

    Click to enphaoronate.

    OK. “Embiggen” was fine, but now I think Phil needs an intervention.

  19. Craig

    I don’t think this is the best picture to help people understand how borders can be hard to see from space, because there is only 1 border to be seen (the one between Egypt and Israel), it is at the far right, and I can see it reasonably well. (On the right side of the picture, just to the left of Jerusalem, it is the transition between having no lights to having a few lights.)

  20. I love all the idealized sentiment as well. But my first thought after it, was – is the hugely bright spot just below Cairo the pyramids? You see the pictures of them being lit at night, so it seems likely, but it is a real eye opener about how far that pretty bright light will travel.

    @19 QuietDesperation – I love Phil’s creative “em” words.

  21. Trebuchet

    #3 MTU: I think “It really is a river in Egypt” is a reference to a joke/pun involving “denial”.

    Noticeable dark area there corresponding to Gaza.

  22. @ Non-believer:

    I think those are the lights of the “satellite cities” that now orbit Cairo. It used to be open desert around the city, now it’s non-stop sprawl.

    BTW, I think the correct spelling should be “empharaonate.”

    Now it’s back to picking the nits off my dog…

  23. There’s been some great quotes by astronauts who have had the privilege of experiencing such a perspective on our world:

    You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a b*tch.”
    — Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut, People magazine, 8 April 1974.

    “When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.”
    — Frank Borman, Apollo 8, Newsweek, 23 December 1968.

    “We were flying over America and suddenly I saw snow, the first snow we ever saw from orbit. I have never visited America, but I imagined that the arrival of autumn and winter is the same there as in other places, and the process of getting ready for them is the same. And then it struck me that we are all children of our Earth.”
    — Aleksandr Aleksandrov (MIR flight engineer / 1987)

    And there’s dozens more eye-opening and haunting quotes like this on Eyes Turned Skyward: (http://www.spacequotations.com/earth.html).

    It’s hard to look at an image like this and put any stock at all in nationalistic pride, political aspirations or religious fervor. There’s our planet, folks, regardless of what you believe or where you’re from. This is where we all live, where every living thing that we know of ever HAS lived, all of history has taken place within that thin shell of air. To fight over invented lines in the sand, through the forests, over the mountains and across the sea just instantly becomes blatantly FOOLISH.

    Or at least it should.

  24. whoschad

    Don’t know about the ‘borders’ thing. Check out the West Bank.

  25. QuietDesperation

    I think those are the lights of the “satellite cities” that now orbit Cairo.

    Huh. Are they on wheels or tracks? Or did they rediscover the magical anti-gravity technology that built the pyramids and is now being hid from us by the gummint?

    I don’t think this is the best picture to help people understand how borders can be hard to see from space

    I think people generally get that. Actually seeing the big letters and dashed lines from the air is a joke that dates back to the early days of flight.

    Also, not seeing the borders from space means… what, exactly? Are we in Butter Battle Book territory here?

  26. sophia8

    When I see shots like that, I only ever have two thoughts:
    “How do the people living there ever get to see the stars?”
    and
    “What a criminal waste of energy….”

    OK, I’m a party-pooper. Deal with it.

  27. Guysmiley777

    The problem is it takes a huge amount of energy to get people into orbit, so it really is an experience for a privileged few.

  28. 24601

    “Humanity must rise above the earth, to the top of the atmosphere and beyond. For only then will we understand the world in which we live.” -Socrates
    http://www.overviewinstitute.org

  29. To be fair, this is a photo at night. During the day the Egypt-Israeli border is clearly seen. One side is near-white, naked desert, and the other is brown-green with forced agriculture.
    Here’s one picture that I found on Google Images displaying this:
    http://www.factsofisrael.com/en/images/articles/israelmap.jpg

  30. Tom

    For the literalists and non-native English speakers: “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” –Mark Twain

  31. cicely

    Tip o’ the coptic jar to NASA.

    Canopic jar, surely?

  32. Bob_In_Wales

    Re space travellers change of perspective, see: T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, No. 4, Little Gidding –

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    Written in 1942! Certain truths are universal and only seem to become more true as our horizons widen.

  33. Mike

    Phil, that’s a nice sentiment about not being able to see borders from orbit, but it unfortunately isn’t true. You can see differences in land use. Sometimes, it can take a careful look. In the image you posted, you can (with some difficulty) make out the southern border of Israel, between Eilat and Gaza. Tijuana has a noticeable edge at the US border (the bulk of San Diego is significantly north). Heck, you can even make out the California/Nevada state line on both shores of Lake Tahoe. A more striking counterexample is the DMZ between North and South Korea, and to a lesser extent, the Yalu River between North Korea and China.

  34. QuietDesperation

    Written in 1942! Certain truths are universal and only seem to become more true as our horizons widen.

    And more expensive. Yeah, I’m a party-pooper, too, along with sophia8.

    Although as for a waste of energy, the lights aren’t even that bright visually from an airplane, so I’m guessing the image is enhanced and/or some very sensitive optics were involved.

  35. Tara_B

    When do some folks begin to realise that boundaries are nothing, that countries mean practically nothing? The “others” are just the same as you are!

    You’re right. So what if in some countries I can’t be seen outside alone, or drive a car, or go to school, or… It’s all just the same! Whee! Oh, look at all the rosy colors! Or if in another country my entire neighborhood could be slaughtered due to some grievance that predates the written word. That guy in the rape gang and wielding the machete is just the same as me! I feel much better now!

    Typical pampered Western nonsense.

  36. Tara_B

    And there’s dozens more eye-opening and haunting quotes like this on Eyes Turned Skyward:

    And I’m sure all these breathless, starry eyed quoted were followed by concise plans on how to get all the peoples of the world to lay aside differences and hates and ignorances that are an order of magnitude older than your entire society in America? Yes? Yes? What? No? Oh well.

  37. Brian Too

    Astronomers have a bit of a P.R. problem with these lights. The star gazers have problems with them and I understand why.

    However the lights of civilization are beautiful. This picture shows why. Any tall building in an urban center provides another handsome view of the night skyline.

    Wasteful? Perhaps. But by that standard the stars are wasteful too. And I don’t hear anyone, including astronomers, bemoaning the wastefulness of the celestial sphere.

  38. Tara_B has some issues?

  39. AJ in CA

    @#19 Quiet Desperation:
    OK. “Embiggen” was fine, but now I think Phil needs an intervention.

    Hah! Just give me the signal and I’ll lock the door behind him when he walks in! :P Srsly, I’m still enjoying it, but then, I’m weird. And one of these days he’s going to start running out of artificial words, and he’ll be spending precious blogging time trying to think of new ways to say “enlarge.” Oh noes! :P

  40. @41. I think TaraB may either be on the wrong site or missing a few key points. Or both.

    Those ancient grievances are what we need to move beyond as a species in order to devote our combined skills and intelligence toward the advancement of our civilization. Yes, oppression is terrible. Our young nation is not immune from it. Inequality, intolerance, greed, persecution…we got it in some form or another. I would think that images like the one shown above would perhaps fight against those byproducts of ignorance that have plagued humanity for millennia, and that would be a good thing. Is it a magic cure for them? Of course not. But neither is it nonsense, not if it helps to open even just one set of eyes to the big picture.

    Somebody please click to entolerate…

  41. Mike J.

    EXIF data:

    Nikon D3S

    Date 2010-10-28

    Shutter speed 1/4 second.

    f 2.8

    Focal length 16 mm

  42. Jeffersonian

    Is that Antalya above and left of Cyprus? I guess it’s more populated than I thought. Is that Athens, top left?

  43. Jess Tauber

    A couple of million years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea was essentially a gigantic Death Valley (and the Strait of Gibraltar was closed off), the Nile cut thousands of feet down into the bedrock- everything you see today is gravel, silt, and salt that has piled up since.

  44. Pareidolius

    Amazingly enough, it looks like a huge, glittering papyrus reed. Stunning.

  45. Messier Tidy Upper

    @24. J. Major : Great quotes there. :-)

    My favourite when it comes to the unity of us all on this pale blue dot, however, is this one :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNOM7WOGGUw

    by Carl Sagan. :-)

  46. Messier Tidy Upper

    @43. J. Major :

    Thanks for some nice noble quotes earlier too @ #24 btw. they’re good & have some truth to them but … well …

    Argh. Really don’t want to get into politics *but*, I do have to say that (#38.) Tara_B does also make a good point or two.

    We *are* exceptionally lucky to be Westerners living in a largely tolerant and accepting part of the world. Unfortunately, there are some very nasty oppressive and sick cultures and beliefs out there too. Boarders *do* have a lot of real impact.

    Yes, we’re all human & beneath our ideological & cultural differences whatever they are, we all do bleed, laugh and cry as human individuals but .. as Tara-B points out :

    *No*, we’re not all the same & cultures that cherish life and knowledge are NOT the same or remotely equal with cultures that worship hatefullness and oppression.

    We, by & large, *are* pampered, most of us do not fully understand how evil some groups of people and their belief systems really are. We are so lucky to be able to put on rose-tinted glasses. To be able to speak our minds and express our religious and political views freely, to live in a society that accepts women and gays and other ethnicities & cultures as equals. We should be thankful for that, proud of it, and NEVER forget it nor allow those hard-fought for, hard-won freedoms to be destroyed by the intolerance and insanity of the barbaric enemies of our Western civilisation.

    Our values, our way of life are worth fighting for & do deserve and need our constant vigilance and appreciation.

    Somebody please click to entolerate…

    Tolerate *what* though?

    Tolerate those oppressing others and preaching hatred against us and our ways? Tolerate those abusing women and gays and others in the name of their sometimes appallingly cruel, deluded and downright wrong culture or religion / ideology?

    Toleration needs to have some limits.

    Yes, we should tolerate *some* things – women walking around out of purdah, showing their ankles and hair and well whatever else they wish to, women choosing who they marry, women choosing whether they get pregnant and have kids or not, women and everybody else choosing how they live provided they don’t harm others in so doing, different religions being practiced peacefully, no religion being practiced peacefully, people changing religions or condemning religions without being condemned to death as apostates for doing so, women kissing women, men kissing men, people having different sex lives which are *their* business and theirs *alone*, people speaking freely & expressing their views even one’s we disagree with, people drawing cartoons and writing satire and naming teddy bears whatever they want and so on – but we should NOT tolerate *everything*!

    Do you tolerate it if someone is beating their wife?
    Or keeping slaves?
    Or making human sacrifices of unwilling victims?
    Or plotting to destory our society and replace our tolerance civilisation with their intolerance barbarism?

    Cultures & religions and ideas are different – but they are NOT equal.

    Some cultures are better than others – better for those living in them and better for the rest of us.

    Some things, some bad groups with bad ideas we do need to learn NOT to tolerate.

    @ 41. kuhnigget Says:

    Tara_B has some issues?

    heck, don’t we *all* have our issues? Some of us more than others natch. (Mea culpa there too.) ;-)

  47. Messier Tidy Upper

    @22. Trebuchet Says:

    #3 MTU: I think “It really is a river in Egypt” is a reference to a joke/pun involving “denial”.

    Yes, I was sorta joking myself there too. ;-)

    @6. Oli Says:

    @MTU: The Nile is ”’the”’ (wiki coding ftw) river of the world in fact =) It might be the longest river on Earth (there’s a wide margin in the length of the Nile and the Amazon, partially overlapping, so either might be the longest river on Earth)!

    Okay, thanks, didn’t know that. :-)

    I’ve always gathered that the Nile was longer but the Amazon has more water in it. Plus the Nile splits into separate blue Nile /White Nile branches somewhere around Sudan.

    The Nile certainly has a huge role in the earliest stage of human and astronomical history wth Egyptian astronomers being greatly concerned over the helicial rising of Sothis (Sirius) heralding the key flood event.

    The earliest human civilisations pretty much all developed around major rivers – the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus, the Yellow.

  48. Messier Tidy Upper

    A trio of other things to muse upon here :

    1) The earliest human civilisations pretty much all developed around major rivers – the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus, the Yellow. Back then, they were crucial for transport, for sustanece and for allowing cities and kingdoms to come into existence. There is still something deeply appealing in these dynamic, useful, beautiful ribbons of water. Could that be historical natural instinct of some type? :-)

    2) Rivers generally are also incredibly rare in our solar system existing today only on Earth & (albeit of liquid methane-ethane) Titan although previous rivers of lava flowed on Venus and water rivers and glaciers once flowed on Mars.

    3) The Nile delta is at risk of flooding and eroding and being permanently innundated with sea level rise caused by the rising average global temperatures almost certainly due to our carbon dioxide emissions. I wonder if we’ll look back on this image one day and see it as something we’ve lost? I also wonder if comparison with past images could prove interesting to check whether some erosian or odd change has taken place? There a lot of people living in Egypt’s potentially unstable Islamic hereditary dictatorship there that may be put in a difficult position over the next few decades if (more likely, *when*) the changing climate gets worse. :-(

  49. “… and no artificial boundary lines to be seen. We made those ourselves, and we put an awful lot of stock in them.” – Very cool :) And true.

  50. ix

    @48, just more western exceptionalism. Ours is the only true shining hope of civilization and *they* are all the barbarians. Which is exactly what those on the other side of the border believe, of course.

    So yeah, that is why we can’t all get along. Also, ignorance, as evidenced in your post.

  51. Katharine

    just more western exceptionalism. Ours is the only true shining hope of civilization and *they* are all the barbarians. Which is exactly what those on the other side of the border believe, of course.

    Since when was stating that Western society is better on human rights than non-Western society in general somehow exceptionalism? By virtually any human rights measure it’s far improved. That’s just fact.

    This is not justification for racism, of course. It just irks me greatly when, for example, Middle Eastern countries go ‘hurf durf Western imperialism’ when someone mentions their horrible human rights record.

  52. Katharine

    By the way, happy Carl Sagan day!

  53. DrFlimmer

    @ MTU and Katharine

    Yes, BUT

    the Western World does not live its ideals. Yes, they are great. And we have a lot of good values. But are we really living them? What about the wars in “ancient” and even more importantly in “recent” history? Are those showing our ideals to the rest of the world? Is Guantanamo Bay really a proof of our ideals and values? Was the recent Iraq war really just a joyful proof of the great Western values? What would you think as an Iraqi, if some white guys just bomb your cities, torture your friends and behave like mad? Would you think “Oh, they have some great ideals, they are right and peaceful. Let’s do as they do!”

    As a matter of fact, they DO as we do. And to add: They do as we did! The past may be the past, but it’s important to understand what’s going on and why there is so much hatred. Several hundreds of years ago the “Western World” started to send its fleets all over the world to show their great values to the “others”. In most cases (just take the American history as an example) they were welcomed with peace and joy. How did the Europeans repay them? With illnesses, war, hatred and death. Awesome, isn’t it?

    To make sure: I don’t want to defend any form of terrorism, hatred, abuse of power, abuse of women and children, etc etc. But, I understand WHY there is so much hatred towards everything that comes “from the west”.

    We NEVER EVER showed them and lived our “great values”. In the past it was Christianity that didn’t do what it should do – and mostly it still doesn’t. Today it’s the “Western World” with its ideals that doesn’t do what it should do. If we don’t begin to actually live our values, to be THE example of a peaceful society, then we should not even dare to spread our “values” — nobody would accept them, naturally.

    What would you think, if someone tells you how peaceful and just he is, and then cuts of your head, because you didn’t want to follow him? What would YOU think?

    Again, the Western World HAS great ideas, ideals and values. But we DON’T live them! THAT is the problem!

  54. @ Katharine #54:

    Well, to be fair, I suppose you could say western imperialism is another way of saying poor human rights for the other guys.

    I have absolutely zero love for any culture that makes women walk around in sacks because their menfolk are too “weak” to stand the sight of them, let alone one that hangs teenage boys because they were caught wanking in the closet, but I also would really prefer that big, powerful western societies would stop waging non-stop war against anyone who has anything they (meaning we) want. How “respectful” is it when your latest war, just for example, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians? We’re not talking about repression, we’re talking about horrible, painful deaths.

    It would be swell to live in a tolerant world, but we really should start at home first.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled grammar nitpicking.

    EDIT: oops! Doc Flim beat me to it.

  55. Katharine

    I didn’t say the Western world was perfect. I think it still has a way to go.

    But it’s further ahead than the Eastern world.

  56. Messier Tidy Upper

    @53. ix Says:

    @48, just more western exceptionalism. Ours is the only true shining hope of civilization and *they* are all the barbarians. Which is exactly what those on the other side of the border believe, of course. So yeah, that is why we can’t all get along. Also, ignorance, as evidenced in your post.

    Ignorance? What ignorance? No,really, *what* have I said there that you consider factually inaccurate?

    As for barbarism how else do you describe stoning women for consensual sex or even getting raped, forcing them to live as second class citizens hidden beneath burkas and shut away so men won’t be tempted badly enough to lose control, executing homosexuals by hanging – denying in Iran’s case that they even exist or that the Shoah (Holocaust) ever happened, still preaching anti-Semitic nonsense like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, threatening writers with death for supposedly blaspheming, threatening cartoonists with death for supposed blasphemy, threatening teachers with death for naming a teddy bear after a student named Mohammad because that’s apparently blasphemy too and so very much more. :-(

    How else would you describe that sort of mindset, that sort of backwards 7th century intolerant messed up culture if not as barbaric? :-(

    Also, ix which side of the border are you living on and what sort of lifestyle and freedoms do you enjoy? Do you really think you’d have the same lifestyle and freedom living by Sharia law? I hope not not female, lesbian or, god forbid, left-handed! ;-)

    If you were, just think for half a second what your life would be like in a Muslim land. Imagine living with no alcohol, no bacon, no freedom in a land where entertainment was attending the friday morning mosque hate session followed by public exceutions & punitive amputations and perhaps a “Death to America” rally. Yes, I do think there cultures and nations are barbaric and wrong. There’s very good reasons and lots of justification for thinking so starting with Islamic terrorism and the Jihadist movement from the old Muslim brotherhood to Al Quaeda in Yemen.

    @56. DrFlimmer :

    Yes, BUTthe Western World does not live its ideals. Yes, they are great. And we have a lot of good values. But are we really living them?

    Yes actually, most of us are. How many of us personally vote, treat women as equals, respect huamn rightsand others freedom of speech etc ..

    Guantanamo Bay was built for a reason – we are at war and the prisoners there are trying to destory us just because of who we are. We are stiltretaing them far better than they’d treat us if thwe ha dthe misfortune of falling into their hands. Ever hear what they did to Daniel Pearl or Leon Klinghoffer or so many other victims of Jihadist terrorism around the globe? Think you’d get off differently because you’re not Jewish or American or pro-Muslim?

    What would you think, if someone tells you how peaceful and just he is, and then cuts of your head, because you didn’t want to follow him? What would YOU think?

    Well being dead I wouldn’t think anything at all! ;-)

    But, I ask you, when was the last time Westerners walked into a Muslim nation and decapitated all the population just for nothing?

    Oh wait that’s NEVER happened.

    Afghanistan? It was sheltering Osama Bin laden. Iraq? Everyone thought Saddam had WMDs because he was bluffing and playing silly games with the UN afraid his own people would rise up against him if he didn’t look tough enough – and paying the families of Palestinian homicide-suicide bombers and presenting a constant menace to his neighbours and mass murdering his own people.

    Terrorists and threatening dictators have been taken out for good reason and the world is better off without them.

    We, unlike they, have gone to extreme trouble to minimise the innocent casualties using smart laser-guided bombs to take out those planning to attack us (& yes sometimes regrettably the human shields those cowards surround themsleves with.) When we kill it is unintentional by mistake and we apologise for it and pay compensation. When the Jihadists kill innocent civilains it is deliberately with malice aforethought and they celebate by dancing in the streets – and maybe taking the odd second or third wife or concubine.

    Oh & btw. apparently beating those wives is also fine by Sharia law so long as the stick is only so big – not to mention honour killings, Female Genital Mutilation and general brutality to women & minorities.

    No, its true that Western civilisation doesn’t always live up to its ideals. No, we’re not perfect and,yes, we have made mistakes. But compared to every other civilisation on the planet there are none better or even remotely as good as we are.

    They hold compulsory ‘Death to America’ rallies and hold conventions demonising the Juuuz and denying the Holocaust & Israel’s very right to exist at all. We hold voluntary anti-war protests*, interfaith and atheist conventions and environmental summits. FSM help me if this doesn’t say more than enough about which culture, which side in our present clash of civilisations is the more ethical and which way of life is worth fighting for.

    It is time, I think, we stopped apologising for who we are and appeasing those who only wish to slit our throats and started standing up for the values of human rights, tolerance, liberty, equlity, fraternity and science.

    * And very occassionally the odd pro-war one too. Because we allow and encourage free speech. Just you *try* holding a “Life to America /Israel” rally in Tehran & see how far you get! ;-)

  57. “Iraq? Everyone thought Saddam had WMDs because he was bluffing and playing silly games with the UN afraid his own people would rise up against him if he didn’t look tough enough – and paying the families of Palestinian homicide-suicide bombers and presenting a constant menace to his neighbours and mass murdering his own people.”

    Sorry, MTU, but “everyone” did not think that. The UN inspectors themselves were quite clear on the point that there were no WMDs. And quite a few of us were seeing through Bush’s b.s. from day one. His war was not about liberating the Iraqi people, it was about getting access to their oil fields.

    Iraq posed no threat to the U.S. nor any other western country, and one could make the case that we had no business interfering in that country’s internal politics. If it’s crazy dictatorships you’re worried about, why not invade Saudi Arabia? Or China? Or Myanamar? Or Libya? Or… ______

    As for Afghanistan harboring Osama bin Laden, well, that’s what diplomacy is for, isn’t it? Notice how countries such as Spain dealt with their terrorism cases through the legal system. Wham, bam, into prison you go, Imam. The U.S., of course, had to wage war on “the terrorists.” And let’s see…how well has that turned out?

    As for which culture is “worth fighting for,” well, that just depends which culture you’re in, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, some people don’t want to live in democratic societies. Some people like being “taken care of.” And even if they didn’t, it’s their struggle. We can help, sure, we might even try to inspire, but we have absolutely no right to force our particular brand of government on any other people. Freedom isn’t free. You have to earn it.

  58. Did you say no bacon?

  59. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ J.Major : Yep, no bacon, no ham, no pork, no booze. :-(

    @57. kuhnigget :

    … also would really prefer that big, powerful western societies would stop waging non-stop war against anyone who has anything they (meaning we) want.

    We are NOT waging non-stop war though! We are in fact being incredibly restrained and by past imperial standards we are unbeleiveably merciful and overly generous to those who are seeking to exterminate us.

    Remember what the Roman empire did to Carthage after Hannibal? That city was wiped out and the ground sown with salt. The Mongols used to make pyramids of skulls on the Russian and Chinese cities they stamped upon and crushed flat. China is conducting genocide against the Tibetans, Uighurs and others as I type. That’s ruthlessness, that’s true mean ole style imperialism. That’s NOT our style in the West or present.

    The USA & its Coalition partners in arms – despite their overwhelming firepower, is handing back the lands it has captured from its enemies to their people – despite those people still fighting them. More, its activily trying to rebuild those nations and leave them in good shape with more freedom, more human rights, more benefits than they could have ever dreamed for under their previous rulers. (Esp. the Taliban!)

    If we were really the ogres the Muslim world accuses us of being then the West Bank & Gaza wouldn’t be in Palestinian hands now – nor, incidentally, would the Sinai peninusla be in Eygpt’s. If we were the harsh ruthless, uncaring monsters the Muslims say we are then Afghanistan & Baghdad – and Pakistan too which everyone knows has been playing both sides in the “War on Terror” as well as a nuclear power – would be glowing in the dark right now.

    Oh & no Muslim would ever set be allowed to travel by plane or set foot near any US landmark or building of any importance. Mosques would be banned everywhere in the United States, Arabia would be occupied and oil would be a heck of lot cheaper. ;-)

    But, of course, that’s NOT the case. If anything, we have been far too soft, far too concerned with their rights and their sovereignty and too little concerned with our own best interests – and even survival.

    How “respectful” is it when your latest war, just for example, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians? We’re not talking about repression, we’re talking about horrible, painful deaths.

    *Your* war? Eh?? *Whose* war?

    Did we fly planes into skyscrapers or proudly host & support the evil whackjob who did? No.

    Did we fail to disarm as we were obliged to do by UN resolutions? No.

    Did we give Saddam an offer to flee in peace and avoid the consequences of his WMD bluff? Yes.

    Did we even offer to leave the Taliban alone if they’d hand over Osama bin Laden? Well, yes, I’m pretty sure I recall us doing that too.

    Did the Jewish state accept a partition deal in 1947 that would have given the Arabs half of the then-UN mandate so a Palestinian state could have been created in the very beginning alongside Israel? Yes – but the Muslim world rejected that offer and opted for a war of extermination against Israel instead that continues to this day.

    They’ve tried to wipe Israel out – to push the Jews into the sea making no secret that they intended to leave no Israeli survivors on at least three occassions – 1948, 1967 and 1973. On each occassion they lost badly and were saved by the world pressuring Israel – the victim of the Arabs aggression to stop. The Palestinians have had multiple chances to get a state in exchange for ceasing terrorism – they’ve turned all of them down never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace. Iran meanwhile is busy trying to aquire nukes to wipe Israel off the map again. I predict Ahmadinehad’s Islamic revolutionary state will come off second best there too – just as Saddam’s Iraq did in the 1980’s with its attempt with the Osirak reactor.

    So *your* wars? :roll:

    No. Not our wars but *their* wars which they’ve keep launching and losing. Which they could’ve avoided. Which, it is about time, they stopped blaming everyone but themselves for and maybe stopped trying to fight and repeat their mistakes. War is always accomapnied by ugliness and death. The consequences lie with those who start them – and despite what many people believe G.W. Bush didn’t start this war, Osama and those even before him did.

    The West has been more than willing to make peace and avoid war. But then our culture says peace and kindness is good. Theirs not-so-much.

    The last major Islamic national leader who *seriously* tried to make peace was Anwar Sadat – and the Muslim terrorists murdered him for it.

  60. Olorin

    Don’t worry about the light pollution. A third of the lights will be gone in 40 years as the Nile delta sinks beneath the sea. The people who live there will be gone also, of course….

  61. Sigh…

    Your war? Whose war?
    Did we fly planes into skyscrapers or host the evil whackjob who did? No.

    Neither did the Iraquis. Next point.

    Did we fail to disarm as we were obliged to do by UN resolutions? No.

    Neither did Iraq (fail to disarm). There were no WMDs, as the UN inspectors themselves concluded. Next point.

    Did we give Saddam an offer to flee in peace and avoid the consequences of his WMD bluff? Yes.

    Who are “we” to tell any leader of any country other than our own what to do? He didn’t attack us. He had no ability to attack us. All he had was bluster, and last time I looked up “freedom of speech”… Next point.

    Did we even offer to leave the Taliban alone if they’d hand over Osama bin Laden? Well, yes, I’m pretty sure I recall us doing that too.

    Hmm. So diplomacy is a 1-step activity? Ah. I guess we should have invaded France for failing to extradite Roman Polanski.

    Next point.

    Did the Jewish state …

    We interrupt this one for a question about states that are based upon ancient religious mythologies. Hey, I’ve got some Canaanite blood on my mom’s side. Can I go declare the State of Kuhnigget somewhere along the Eastern Mediterranean, the current local residents be darned?

    The West has been more than willing to make peace and avoid war. But then our culture says peace and kindness is good. Theirs not-so-much.

    Um…MTU, you really need to read some history. The U.S. has been in non-stop wars against one party or another since about 1942. Does that make us the Great Satan? Probably not. But we sure as hell are not the ideal model of enlightenment you make us out to be.

    The last one on their side who *seriously* tried to make peace was Anwar Sadat – and the Muslim terrorists murdered him for it.

    Anwar Sadat was truly a visionary. But Egypt is also a police state. Have you been there? I have. Spent quite a bit of time there, actually. To characterize the opposition to its government along strict Muslim fundamentalist/secularist lines is silliness in the extreme. The common people have very strong reasons for not liking their government, which for all intents and purposes is a dictatorship. Again, does that make us the Great Satan for helping to prop it up? Probably not, as it’s in our political interest that those uppity fedayin mind their manners. But it hardly makes us a standard bearer of freedom…as the Egyptians know it.

    My final comment (unless you start bringing flying saucers into the picture) is that the situation is so much more complex than your “us vs. them” statements proclaim. To believe that the world’s conflicts can only be resolved by “fixing the other guys” is hopelessly naive at best, recklessly ignorant at worst.

  62. “…maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.”

    I still agree with Frank.

  63. Messier Tidy Upper

    @60. kuhnigget Says:

    Sorry, MTU, but “everyone” did not think that. The UN inspectors themselves were quite clear on the point that there were no WMDs. And quite a few of us were seeing through Bush’s b.s. from day one. His war was not about liberating the Iraqi people, it was about getting access to their oil fields.

    Gee, that sure explains why we’re giving Iraq back to the Iraqi people complete with its oil fields now doesn’t it? :roll:

    If we had really just wanted oil we’d have invaded and occupied Saudi Arabia instead. ;-)

    Iraq posed no threat to the U.S. nor any other western country, and one could make the case that we had no business interfering in that country’s internal politics.

    Well, Iraq was trying to develop WMD’s it just hadn’t actually built itself up again after the 1991 Kuwait war. Saddam was paying the families of Palestinian terrorists and had plotted to assassinate President George Bush Sr. No threat eh? Probably just as well Hussein wasn’t given the chance to act and do damage. In hindsight, the liberation of Iraq perhaps looks wrong but at the time, there was plenty to suggest the invasion was a good idea.

    I don’t think we should really regret removing a brutal mass-murdering pyschopathic dictator whose execution was welcomed by his people.

    If it’s crazy dictatorships you’re worried about, why not invade Saudi Arabia? Or China? Or Myanamar? Or Libya? Or… ______

    Well now that you mention it! ;-)

    I’ll grant you there are other nasty dictatorships around the globe. There are certainly times when I think a UN sanctioned operation to remove the likes of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe would do the world a lot of good and save a lot of innocent lives & might not be a bad thing at all.

    As for Afghanistan harboring Osama bin Laden, well, that’s what diplomacy is for, isn’t it?

    Diplomacy was tried and it failed.
    The Taliban would never have willingly given Osama bin Laden up.

    As for which culture is “worth fighting for,” well, that just depends which culture you’re in, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, some people don’t want to live in democratic societies.

    While some aren’t given the choice or allowed to tell us (or consider for themselves) if they do. :-(

    But consider what sort of societies people choose to flee *from* and what nations they most wish to emigrate *to*.

    Some people like being “taken care of.” And even if they didn’t, it’s their struggle. We can help, sure, we might even try to inspire, but we have absolutely no right to force our particular brand of government on any other people. Freedom isn’t free. You have to earn it.

    I agree to some extent there, but then I was lucky enough to be born into a Western family. As I suspect were you and most others here. We can’t control the circumstances of our birth, the cards we’re handed then. We don’t earn that.

    I think in a way I *am* earning my freedom now by speaking up for freedom and the Western way and for the values I hold – and that, yes, I wish would spread, peacefully, to more of the planet.

    Why shouldn’t we work to encourage democracy and freedom for everyone on this Earth? Don’t those unlucky enough to be born in a Muslim or Communist hellhole deserve advocates and encouragement for them getting to enjoy the same inalienable human rights that we take for granted too?

  64. Phil, your very last paragraph is a very important message, maybe one of the most important messages of all! Hopefully, many more people start to think about these few lines!

  65. Peter Davey

    With regard to the question of borders, I’m afraid that, as soon as we reach the point where we have items of value in space the question of ownership will occur.

    When we – hopefully – start building zero-gee manufacturing facilities, the question of jurisdiction will start to emerge. Actually, it could already, should an astronaut of one nationality, aboard the ISS, hit an astronaut of another nationality over the head with a blunt instrument. However, as and when we start mining the Moon, or the Asteroids, or Mercury’s metal-rich body, questions of ownership and control – law and order will start to arise on a much larger scale.

    You could have religious and political extremist groups setting up their own communities on the odd moon or asteroid. Who, if anyone, will have control over them?

    The writer G Harry Stine, in his book, “The Third Industrial Revolution”, was discussing this question in the 1980s, without a definite answer. Another writer, Jerry Pournelle, had discussed it more recently, on a more fictional basis – communities setting themselves up on asteroids with resources worth mining.

    Whose job would it be to control those settlements – enforce a basic level of law and order, particularly if the inhabitants had deliberately moved to be free of control from Earth’s authorities?

    I’m afraid that, as the human race spreads out across the Solar System, we might end up looking into the night sky, and seeing far more borders than there are down here.

  66. Katharine

    Some people like being “taken care of.”

    What kind of sick idiots like that? The fat rich old majority-religion men (and it is almost always men) who step on the necks of others? The women who are brainwashed into hating themselves?

  67. Gamercow

    re: national borders

    There is one case that I can think of instantly where national borders are starkly evident in this kind of picture, that being North/South Korea.

  68. Fisheye

    **FISHEYE LENS**

    These night time pictures have been cropping up lately, and nobody ever mentions that it’s taken with a seriously distorted lens. It makes for such a misleading picture.

    You’re looking at a small part of the Mediterranean sea, yet the picture makes it appear as if you’re seeing about a quarter of the earth all in one shot. Earth does not look like this from the ISS’s orbit!

  69. AJ in CA

    @Messier Tidy Upper: I try not to get involved in politics, but I think I love you :)

  70. DrFlimmer

    Messier Tidy Upper, have you ever taken some kind of “history” classes?

    There are lot of things you can learn from the past. One of the most important messages is that people sadly seem to never learn from the past. As Ozzy Osbourn put it: “Watching all of history repeat itself time after time!” Maybe I am also just a dreamer, but at least I think I can understand why things are the way they are today.

    Speaking of Israel and Palestine. Did you know that the Britains promised the same land to both Jews and Palestinians? That’s one of the reason why there is such a mess going on in the middle east.

    And believe it or not, a lot of the hatred we see now has been planted in the past. The Muslims (and others) don’t hate us for what we are today…. ok, they also hate what we are today, correct…. but they especially hate us for what we did in the past! Did the Westerners in the past ever treat someone with the respect he deserved for being a human being and maybe had a different culture? If you want a true answer: That is NO. Hatred is normally built up in a process. It happens only on rare occasions that hatred spawns from one moment to the next. Normally it takes time. And now consider a whole community, a large community.
    We planted the hatred a long time go. And we did nothing in order to show that this could be wrong. In fact it have been mainly the Westerners (that is to say, the “white” folks) who started the most terrible wars in the history of man kind (and yes, I do not forget about Dschingis Khan (or how he is written in English) — that’s why I said “mainly”).
    So, finally, after a very long time the hatred of a whole culture breaks out. This was foreseeable! In fact, a German writer (Karl May) wrote 100 years ago: “The Islam is a sleeping dragon. And we should not dare wake it up!”
    We did!

    And btw: As a matter of fact the Muslims normally have no reason to hate, say, Christians in the first place. We are not infidels, according to Mohammed and the Koran. Mohammed granted Jews and Christians at least the first (of seven) heaven. Obviously something has changed over time. Why don’t the Muslim follow the Koran literally any more? Why do they consider us infidels, now? Could it be due to our own wrong-doing in the past? Is there at least a slight possibility that we made terrible mistakes in the past and we now face the consequences?

    Some examples of the more recent history. Do you remember that both Saddam Hussein and the Taliban used to be “good friends” of America? Could it be that America grew its own enemies?

    And speaking of cruelties: Even IF “the others” behave cruel and terrible (no questions about that!), this does NOT and NEVER justify Guantanamo Bay! NEVER! Just because “they” are cruel doesn’t mean that we also must be cruel. Because: If WE don’t give them at least the sign that we are NOT cruel, then and ONLY then can we demand them to not be cruel, as well. Otherwise they point back at us and say: “You are cruel, too. What do you want?”
    This is a vicious circle! And someone needs to stop it! And it MUST be us — Always start with yourself!
    That is to say: If you want that others change, change yourself first!

    (I have a lot more to say, but I don’t want to.)

  71. @ Katharine:

    Some people like being “taken care of.”
    What kind of sick idiots like that? The fat rich old majority-religion men (and it is almost always men) who step on the necks of others? The women who are brainwashed into hating themselves?

    Possibly. It doesn’t matter. If that is the way they choose to live, then it is their right to do so. You can do everything in your power to try to convince them otherwise, but you cannot force them to your way of thinking. To do so is just as odious as their trying to force you to their way of thinking and their way of life.

    There are many points of view in the world. Ours is not the only one. It may or may not be the best, but we have no business forcing it upon others….if, that is, we truly respect those others. Therein lies the problem.

  72. Wil

    I think that seeing the Earth from space (where political borders are invisible), and experiencing different cultures, histories, religions and languages (which can not be sensed from space at all) are a lot like looking at a galaxy first in visible light, and then in x-ray, and then in infra-red light.

    All of these things are real and are happening concurrently, whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not. And they have been happening very, very long before our generation existed, and they will be happening very long after we are all gone.

    They are all just as valid as each other. None more, and none less.

  73. Messier Tidy Upper

    @72. AJ in CA : Awww shucks. [Blushes.] Thanks. :-)

    I try not to get dragged into political discussion either these days but sometimes I just can’t resist.

    @75. kuhnigget :

    There are many points of view in the world. Ours is not the only one. It may or may not be the best, but we have no business forcing it upon others….if, that is, we truly respect those others. Therein lies the problem.

    Well of course. Thing is respect can be earnt or lost. If I’m talking to someone & they tell me its okay to beat and oppress women, execute and deny the very existence of gays, kill people for writing satire, spread anti-Jewish hatred & lies, etc .. then they’ve lost my respect. Islam has lost my respect.

    You I respect.

    Some moderate Muslim individuals I am prepared to respect -and if they don’t make their religious beliefs an issue and a threat then I’m happy to leave them be.

    But when extreme Jihadist Muslims decide that their faith gives them a right – a religious obligation even – to attack and kill *others* that’s where I say, NO, sorry I have to fight you on this before you hurt people.

    Exactly the same applies to other groups like Creationists and extremist Christians or Hindus – their ideas may sound silly to me, but hey, whatever floats their canoe. If a Creationist or Flying Saucer-ist really wants to ignore all the evidence, throw reason aside and believe their bunk, no skin off my nose to let them do so if that’s what they’re keen to do. If they want to teach it in schools or start slandering and attacking those who disagree with them OTOH, well then we have to fight them.

    Because its NOT us that are trying to force them to beleive but vice-versa. Islamists want to compel us to do what *they* want, think as they do & behave as badly towards others as they are doing. Its them who are seeking to bully and force us and we have to fight or submit.

    Islam seems like a bad idea to me but if peaceful Muslims want to follow it that’s their business. When they decide to start flying planes onto buildings and declaring jihads – well that”s NOT cool, NOT okay & we need to stop them.

    That’s my earlier point about toleration – some things we should tolerate, others we shouldn’t.

    The Islamic creed, Muslim culture and Islamic nations are, it appears, deeply steeped in misogny, homophobvia and Judaeophobia. I don’t respect those things and I’m not sure why anyone on the liberal, left-wing side of politics (or anyone with any basic compassion and empathy for others) would.

  74. Messier Tidy Upper

    @74. DrFlimmer :

    Messier Tidy Upper, have you ever taken some kind of “history” classes?

    I certainly have. I love history and have taken many courses at high school and university on it. Incl. SouthWest Asian (ME) politics and history as well as classic as and Modern European History.

    Speaking of Israel and Palestine. Did you know that the Britains promised the same land to both Jews and Palestinians?

    Naturally. There were Jews living there at the time and it was theancestral jewish homeland for millennia. The Palestinains are of rather more dubious origin with a school of thought that most of them previously identified as Arab or even Syrian.

    Did you know Jordan (nee TransJordan) was part of the original British Mandate too and was split off to provide a Arab state?

    They got that, they were offered half of what was left – and still they wouldn’t accept sharing the land with the Jewish people. Who, let’s not forget, were there – along with the closely related Samaritan people – long before the time of Mohammad and his Arab conquest of the region.

    .. believe it or not, a lot of the hatred we see now has been planted in the past.

    Oy vey can I *ever* believe that hatred is built up in the past. :roll:

    Its hardly coming from the future is it! ;-)

    Thing is, the past doesn’t explain everythingand at some point historical grudges need to be discarded.How long can theybalme everythingintheir historyand not tstart takkingresponsibilityfor their actions today? At some point the Arabs need to accept that Israel is here to stay – and get over it. Period.

  75. Messier Tidy Upper

    Argh .. typos :

    Thing is, the past doesn’t explain everything and at some point historical grudges need to be discarded. How long can the Arab side get away with blaming everything in their history (& yeah, okay, they got a rough deal at times although where they’d care to swap their rough time with all the pogroms and and persecution the Jews experienced in *their* history is another question again!) and not start taking responsibility for their actions today?

    At some point – the soonerthe better for everybody’s sake – the Arabs need to accept that Israel is here to stay – and get over it. Period.

    *********************************

    @ @74. DrFlimmer part II :

    Did the Westerners in the past ever treat someone with the respect he deserved for being a human being and maybe had a different culture? If you want a true answer: That is NO.

    Que? I would strongly dispute that vast over-generalisation there.

    David Livingstone for instance was a great explorer-missionary who also strongly opposed slavery.

    Charles Sturt and Edward John Eyre are two Australian explorers with very enlightened – for the times admittedly – attitudes to the indigenous peopel they encountered.

    Yes our culture was different and bit less politically correct in the past. Yes there was a lot of racism and bigotry back then – but it wasn’t the full story and didn’t apply to every Westerner even at the time.

    Wow, DrFlimmer, you do seem to have a bit of an issue and a bit of a prejudicial attitude when it comes to Westerners don’t you?

    a matter of fact the Muslims normally have no reason to hate, say, Christians in the first place. We are not infidels, according to Mohammed and the Koran.

    Well that’s debatable really I think. Moderate Muslims have a moderate interpretation and I’m fine with that. But, unfortunately, there’s all too many Muslim extremists who have a very different, much less tolerant and more brutal interpretation of the Koran and they quote just as much scripture and Muslim scholarship to back their case as the moderates do – if not more. Those are the sort I’m arguing against here.

    Why do they consider us infidels, now? Could it be due to our own wrong-doing in the past? Is there at least a slight possibility that we made terrible mistakes in the past and we now face the consequences?

    Slight possibility? Yes, sure. However, is there not also a possibility that the fault here lies as much or more with *them* as it does with *us*? That Muslims grew more radicalised and intolerant through listening to their own nasty people and their own bad politico-cultural ideas and refusal to acknowledge the validity of those things and groups they disagreed with?

    Why is everything in the Muslim world somehow always *our* fault & never down to the choices and politics and beliefs of the Muslims themselves :roll:

    Doesn’t the Muslim world need to take some responsibility for itself & its actions and evolution as well?

    Eg. Take the Palestinians – yes they got some raw deals from the British and the Israelis I admit. But they sure didn’t help themselves or their own supposed cause either! They could have had a state of their own on a number of occassions. They had a semi-state briefly after the Oslo accords in the early 90’s and were on their way to becoming their own nation – but then Arafat went back to terrorism in the early 2000’s and it all went horribly wrong for them because of that choice of theirs. Then Gaza split away and voted in Hamas and started firing rockets into Israel and, surprise, surprise the Israelis fought back. (As I might add, they had every right to do.) The Palestinians have been killing among themselves too – there’s a civil war between Fatah and Hamas. I suppose you think *thats* all entirely *our* fault too though I’m stuffed if I can figure out how! :roll:

    The other Arabs play the Palestinians cynically as pawns and are all too happy keeping the current status quo. Rather than resettle them they keep many in refugee camps to use as a demographic and propaganda weapon. Arab dictators just love using them as a distraction from their own misdeeds.

    this does NOT and NEVER justify Guantanamo Bay! NEVER! Just because “they” are cruel doesn’t mean that we also must be cruel.

    I actually agree here & I’m not justifying all that happened at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib either. Torture is wrong and counter-productive.

    But let’s not waste too many tears and sympathy for those who are dedicated, utterly ruthless, murderous terrorists. They sure wouldn’t waste any on us. These prisoners are dangerous fanatics who’d just as happily slit your throat as well as mine.

    Now that doesn’t make what we did right but what *would* you do with them? Letting them go and treating them with too much leniency so they can go back to trying to kill us – and perhaps succeed (again in many cases) doesn’t seem like a good idea either does it? :-(

    Otherwise they point back at us and say: “You are cruel, too. What do you want?” This is a vicious circle! And someone needs to stop it! And it MUST be us — Always start with yourself!

    We’re not perfect, true. I’ve already said so myself.

    But stuff that moral equiivalence baloney, we are certainly nowhere remotely near as bad as they are!

    They deliberately set out to murder innocents.
    We try our durnedest not to do so.
    They think its okay to oppress women, non-Muslims and launch wars of extermination against everyone else.
    We insist on human rights, freedom for women and others and defend oursleves from their jihads, fatwah’s and insane rioting over cartoons, teddy bears, et al..
    They want to destroy us totally just for who we are – non-Muslims.
    We just want them to leave us alone in peace.

    Yes, we’re all fallible humans but if you really can’t see the yawing ethical chasm there .. if you think our culture and our values are just as bad as theirs are, well, words fail me. :-(

    ***

    “We can perhaps forgive them [the Palestinians] for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”
    – Golda Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister.

  76. @ MTU:

    But when extreme Jihadist Muslims decide that their faith gives them a right – a religious obligation even – to attack and kill *others* that’s where I say, NO, sorry I have to fight you on this before you hurt people.

    Fine. So fight the jihadist Muslims who attack you.

    But AGAIN…

    The Iraqis were not jihadist Muslims. They did not attack us. They had no capability to attack us.

    To lump the tends of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed in Bush’s war with the handful of lunatics who attacked us is arrogant, stupid, counterproductive and just plain wrong.

    That you don’t seem to comprehend that, or that you can’t seem to differentiate one group of people happily practicing their goofball religion from others who drape their violent agendas in that same religion is…well, certainly no way to earn my respect.

  77. DrFlimmer

    @ Messier Tidy Upper

    There are lot of things in your replies I agree with. This post is just meant to end this debate (which is interesting nonetheless!). First of all, yes, I have oversimplified one or another point. Of course, not every Westerner who conquered the world was a bad guy. Certainly not! And I am glad for every counterexample! However, the point still holds when I say “most of them were”. Take the American history. Many “white folks” behaved civilised and tried to live peacefully with the Indians. But take the example of Hernán Cortés. That’s not what I call a good example of civilised behaviour.

    Yes, we’re all fallible humans but if you really can’t see the yawing ethical chasm there .. if you think our culture and our values are just as bad as theirs are, well, words fail me. :-(

    No, that is not what I think. We have great values. We spent a lot of time to form and to grow them. And we can be happy that we’ve come so far! Sadly, others didn’t have the chance

    To make the last but one point, one that I already made in another debate a few month ago: One of the biggest problems is that the people of the near and middle east are mainly uneducated. The ones who are, are sadly the mad guys who have the power. We cannot expect an uneducated mass to have the knowledge about “human rights”. They just know what they are told to do. I guess, many don’t even know or understand what they are doing when they burn flags in front of a camera! That is propaganda. And in an uneducated society this works even better than it does in an educated society (sadly, even there it can work just fine…). Of course, the guys in the power don’t have any intentions to educate their people — it is obvious why.

    “We can perhaps forgive them [the Palestinians] for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”
    – Golda Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister.

    This is a great quote!

    I am not that blind not to understand that from time to tome you need to defend yourself. But that is critical: If you are attacked, defend yourself, but still behave as civilised and “harmless” as possible!
    As kuhnigget said: This is not what happened in Iraq, for example. And many knew that! Germany (thank God!) did not went there for several reasons. One was that we did not believe GWB. Another point one should not forget is that it may have been a tactical issue during the election campaign in 2002. Still, we did not follow! And I am glad, we didn’t.

    You know, I agree, it’s not all out fault. But from time to time I wonder, if we raise the terrorists ourselves due to some actions we did, at least partly? (And isn’t also true that the “security laws”, which become stricter and stricter, cut our human rights and sometimes also our values?)

    Finally, I’d like to say, that you remind me of a former class mate of mine. In fact, he was a very smart guy. However, our points of view about “politics” annihilated like electrons and positrons in a great flash of light. I had similar discussions with him just like this one back in school. We didn’t like us from the very first moment we knew each other. However, we respected each other, and on rare occasions it happened that we seemed to be best friends and joked and had fun as it would have been that way all the time. These debates here with you, Messier Tidy Upper, remind me of those discussions with him. And I guess it is good to debate such things in a way we do it here, with the respect that we owe each other. And I guess, we can still learn from these debates, don’t we?

  78. Mohamed

    Egypt is AMAZING!

  79. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 81. DrFlimmer

    I guess it is good to debate such things in a way we do it here, with the respect that we owe each other. And I guess, we can still learn from these debates, don’t we?

    Yes indeed. :-)

  80. jd

    This is a dramatic indicator of the concentration of urban population along the Nile, but I wonder if it is very misleading: consider the rural population which doesn’t produce enough light pollution to be so readily apparent.

  81. Jonathan Fisher

    Regarding this quote:

    “We can perhaps forgive them [the Palestinians] for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”
    – Golda Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister.

    It sounds nice, until you ponder the other relationship, a society’s relationship to itself: when any society ‘sins’, how easily do they ‘forgive’ *themselves*?

    The unfortunate answer is that societies almost always find self-justification. Palestine fights, since it knows itself to be under foreign occupation, with checkpoints and roadblocks everywhere. Israel occupies, since it demonstrably knows itself to be under attack, and needs to control the enemy populace.

    Both Israel and Palestine concentrate on the faults of the other, and rarely seek the first step towards peace. Palestine refuses to renounce violent opposition, Israel refuses to renounce irredentism with their settlers.

    The real irony? They’ve each *elected* govt’s that are utterly opposed to reconciliation. In essence, each has voted for confrontation. And while Palestine may deserve the Hamas it elected and Israel may deserve the Likud it elected, each deserves better from the other.

    In the end, the first quote fails, since the speaker simply finds a reason to ‘never forgive’ an enemy, which strikes me as dressing up the subconscious hostility in beautiful, empty rhetoric. If she also talked of ‘unforgivable’ acts of Israel, *then* I might listen. It is easy to talk, eventually, of something that the ‘other people’ do that is unforgivable, even if you have to mess with value systems and apparent necessity to create an appearance of Wise Paradox, but the real paradox *never* arises. Leaders will find reasons to forgive their own people, and reasons to not forgive enemies, as long as humanity exists.

    Find me a Leader who talks of the shortcomings of their own people, and tries to fix them, and I will show you a Leader who is Very Wise, but will likely lose power soon… if not their life. :(

    Jonathan Fisher

  82. Ryan

    I think people are missing on point on the board comment. If you look hard, and know where to look, you may be able to pick out a piece of that a little darker or lighter than it should be.

    However, most people looking at the picture wouldn’t know there is a border there. To them it wouldn’t even enter their mind.

    The fact that you see a border is very telling.

  83. Aaron

    You know, lights don’t “blare.” Music or sound “blares.” Lights “glare.”

  84. Cosmonut

    Its rather ironic that a post like this has so many comments about whether the “Western” societies are more “advanced” than the “Eastern” ones.
    Especially when you realize that the Earth is a globe and every place is just as much East as West.

  85. mr daniels

    Enphaoronate and Embiggen – are you all kidding?

    How about just plain old “Enlarge” or “make bigger”

  86. What are your thoughts on applian technolgies program called freecorder, here is a youtube video explaining it’s use: Download Youtube

  87. Great image *and* article. Though you do see borders sometimes – you know, North Korea. The point still stands, obviously.

  88. Nile Poem

    The blue you contain so vital to life,
    Cuts through the desert like an earth wielding knife.
    To the tops of the trees and the animals below,
    We love you water more than you know.

  89. This is a beautiful pic. I love Egypt

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