- METEOROLOGY attracts criticism and jokes like few professions.Accurate weather forecasting depends on how many eyes there are in the sky. Over 11,000 observation stations across the world take hourly measurements of temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, rainfall and other conditions. Aircraft, merchant ships, weather balloons and satellites do the same thing and transmit data to weather stations on the ground. Joining the dots, supercomputers generate weather maps and spew out forecasts by matching them with similar weather patterns recorded in the past.Meteorologists interpret the computer-generated forecasts by comparing with different mathematical models and tweak them by relying on the torrent of real-time data coming from the field.
- Tools like thermometers that monitor vital weather signs are far from accurate. There are not enough weather balloons to constantly record conditions in the upper atmosphere, home to the real action. Man-made factors add to the chaos, too.The science of weather forecasting, however, is getting better. Short-term five-day forecasts are nearly as accurate as two-day projections were three decades ago. Hurricane predictions, today, are off by an average of 161km (100 miles), down from 563km (350 miles) 25 years ago. The brute force of “petaflop” supercomputers capable of cranking out 1,000 trillion floating-point calculations per second has helped reduce guesswork. Meteorologists now divide the planet into a grid of two-dimensional blocks 13km by 13km across to make their predictions, down from 338km by 338km during early 1900s.
- WHOM does one call when one wants to talk to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s main Islamist group? Most of its leaders are in prison, many of them sentenced to death. Other members are in hiding from the regime of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.On one side are several members of the Brotherhood’s old governing council, known as the “guidance office”, such as Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting “supreme guide”, and Mahmoud Hussein, the secretary-general. Referred to as the “old guard”, they have prioritised the group’s survival and advocated a gradualist approach to changing the state. But many members want to take a more confrontational stance. They are represented by new (though still old) leaders such as Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, who heads a Brotherhood office in Istanbul, and Muhammad Kamal in Egypt, whose place in the guidance office was suspended by the old guard.The Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, favoured violence in some circumstances; but during its long history the group has mostly preferred a peaceful approach.
- THIS year’s E3, the annual gaming shindig, is heavily focused on hardware. Rumours circled prior to the event about project “Neo”, the codename for Sony’s upgraded PlayStation console, that will be capable of 4K resolution (roughly four times the pixels of a Full HD console).However, this new console was a no-show at this year’s event and unlikely to be on sale before early 2017. Instead, Sony is focusing on its own virtual-reality (VR) headset. Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One S, a slimmed-down version of the current model (about 40% smaller). This sleeker design along with an integrated power supply deals with two significant gripes about the original console, released in 2013.And the addition of a 4K capable Blu-ray player adds to its appeal.. IHS, a consultancy, forecasts that the PS4 will maintain a significant advantage in games and related content for consoles in 2016. Microsoft has so far failed to chip away at Sony’s dominance and is falling further behind.
- A Brexit might not lead to a cascade of membership referendums, but it would be a huge fillip to anti-EU forces elsewhere, not least by demonstrating that membership is reversible. (This is one reason why other EU countries would offer Britain a lousy trade deal if it votes to leave.) Post-Brexit, Eurosceptic governments seeking concessions from the EU could also threaten to quit the club. The single currency and the Schengen system of open borders are the most potent symbols of European integration. But each has been sorely tested by crises that have set nation against nation. Indeed, in recent years, as the EU has become largely a crisis-management forum, power has flowed back from Brussels institutions to national governments, particularly to a visibly reluctant Germany.Britain is not in the euro, and has little to do with EU migration policy. But the rest of Europe faces a conundrum: to prevent crises, it needs more of the centralisation that Eurosceptics hate.Do not expect drastic action if Britain votes to leave.