Thursday, May 24, 2012

Did Iran Murder Its Own Scientist?

ABC News is running an interesting story by Randy Kreider in which he explores the possibility that at least one of the Iranian nuclear scientists to have been dispatched to the hereafter by assassins was actually murdered by the Iranians themselves.

They did this not because the scientist was a mole or a defector but because he supported Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man who is widely believed to have won the last election, the corruption of which briefly launched protests in Tehran and elsewhere.

Here are a few excerpts from the ABC story:
Iranian dissidents have long suspected that the country's Islamist regime has used the cover of its not-so-covert war with Israel to crack down on internal opponents, and that a leading Iranian nuclear scientist whose death was blamed on Mossad might really have been killed by his own government.

Now a prominent opposition blogger based in London says that discrepancies in the recent trial and execution of the "Israeli spy" officially charged with killing scientist Masoud Ali Mohammadi are yet more evidence that Iranian intelligence agents may have been the real assassins.

Mohammadi, a nuclear physicist, died in January 2010 when a motorcycle parked outside his house was detonated by remote control when he walked past.

More than two years later, on May 15, 2012, the Iranian government executed 24-year-old Majid Jamali Fashi, who had been convicted of assassinating Mohammadi. Iranian authorities claimed that Fashi, 24, was recruited and trained by Mossad and was paid $120,000 to kill Mohammadi.

In January 2011, Iranian media had broadcast Fashi's confession, in which he said he "received different training including chasing, running, counter-chasing and techniques for planting bombs in a car" while in Tel Aviv. Fashi also confessed to receiving forged travel documents in Azerbaijan to travel to Israel, Iran's Press TV reported.
Iranian dissidents, however point to discrepancies in this story and adduce evidence that Fashi was never executed at all. Check it out at the link.

The Multiverse Explained

Physicist and writer Brian Greene does a fine job of explaining the concept of the multiverse in a column at The Daily Beast.

In the piece he quotes Carl Sagan as saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and then tacitly acknowledges that there's not much evidence for the multiverse theory, so we're left to wonder why it has enjoyed so much popularity among some cosmologists.

Perhaps one reason is that the universe is comprised of forces and constants whose values are calibrated with unimaginably exact mathematical precision. If any of dozens of forces, like gravity, for instance, deviated in their strength from the tiniest amounts - one part in 10^40 in the case of gravity - the universe could not exist, or if it did it would not be the sort of place where living things could emerge.

It's mind-bendingly improbable that such precision would have emerged by sheer chance and there are thus only two viable explanations for it. Either the universe is the product of an intelligent engineering process or there are so many different universes, an infinite number, that one like ours would have to exist. Just as the probability of a blind-folded shooter hitting a postage stamp half a mile away is increased as the number of bullets fired increases, so, too, the chance of a universe like ours appearing increases as the number of different universes that are produced increases.

It seems odd that scientists would posit an explanation which requires the existence of so many entities for which there's so very little evidence, but consider that the only viable alternative is that the universe is the creation of an intentional agent, a God, and it's easier to understand why they do so. It is, at least for some of them, an act of metaphysical desperation.

Anyway, it would be good to read Greene's article. It's written by a physicist who's sympathetic to the multiverse theory and, like much of his work, it's very lucid and accessible to the layman.