The Iraqi Translation Project.

Paul Braterman writes for The Conversation about an admirable project:

In early August, I wrote a piece for The Conversation on how to present evolution in the face of politically motivated misdirection. As a result, I found myself translated into Arabic, invited to comment on the Iraqi situation, befriended on Facebook by numerous people from Iraq, including battle-ravaged Mosul, as well as other Arabic-speaking countries. Then I was contacted by the Iraqi Translation Project, who have since translated several of my pieces into Arabic.

The Iraqi Translation Project (ITP) is one of several similar projects that have sprung up in recent years […]. ITP started in 2013. Its materials are archived on its website, and accessible through Facebook, where it has over 140,000 followers, and on YouTube. The closely related Arabic-language Real Science, founded in 2011, also has its own website (now bilingual) and Facebook page. […]

The longer-term ambition is to set up a professional translation project that will inspire young Arabic-speakers to play their full role in today’s world. […] So far, ITP has translated over 2,000 articles, 60 documentaries and 150 videos. Topics cover a wide range of subjects, from Sumerian civilisation, gravity waves and political secularism, to female philosophers and interbreeding of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

This kind of thing gives me hope that maybe the world isn’t going entirely to hell. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. maybe the world isn’t going entirely to hell.

    The (scientific) truth was always out there. But can you make everybody go and look? Or does it get smothered by “politically motivated misdirection”?

    An example of something anti-scientific (I’m not sure what, but its difficult to see as politically motivated): around the time of the eclipse last year across North America, I was hunting round youtube for good videos of it. The more my search history built up, the more I was getting suggestions of “the eclipse proves the world is flat”/NASA has been spreading lies for decades.

    It is (as ever) difficult to be sure whether these people are serious/trolling. Some of them seemed to have gone to considerable effort to mash up NASA education videos with home experiments (despite those same NASA materials explaining that mucking around with a tennis ball, basketball and desklamp in your darkened bedroom didn’t count as ‘scientific’).

    No civilisation advanced enough to have left records has ever thought the world was flat. Columbus was not setting out to disprove it: the dispute was about the diameter of the earth; not whether it was a globe.

    Shall I start peeving about the lamentable state of education in the sciences these days?

    In such fertile ground, I can see how the pronouncements from somebody untethered to truth could flourish; especially with large dollops of internet fertiliser spread by foreign powers.

  2. David Marjanović says

    No civilisation advanced enough to have left records has ever thought the world was flat.

    Even Ancient Mesopotamia and Sufficiently Ancient Egypt?

    In the Bible, there’s the rather late Book of Job calling the Earth “round” and saying it is “suspended from nothing”. Earlier parts explicitly describe it as a square that rests on pillars, and that’s before we get to the Book of (H)Enoch that was eventually kicked out for being too embarrassing (…but is cited a lot in the New Testament).

  3. Ken Miner says

    Even Ancient Mesopotamia and Sufficiently Ancient Egypt?

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

    BTW the concept of “air rights” seems basically to treat the earth as flat. If you extended the rights conically and regarded air as irrelevant (as we woud have to do today) one would soon “own” vast expanses of the universe! See the Wikipedia article, which includes: “This legal concept is encoded in the Latin phrase Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos (‘For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell'”.

  4. It’s no longer true, though: property rights extend only a reasonable distance above tall structures, or flying over private land would be impossible.

  5. There must be an upper limit to national airspace, or otherwise satellites would be violating it constantly. Or is it just that the concept is ignored by convention when it comes to high orbits?

  6. David Marjanović says

    The concept that national airspace has an upper limit does seem to be universally recognized, but there’s no agreement and little argument about where to draw the boundary, says the Wikipedia article on airspace.

    ‘For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell’

    There is no “for” in there, nor any other conjunction. I’ve gone ahead and fixed the article.

  7. Your private property rights over airspace, at least in the US, extend only about 500 feet up, to the start of “navigable airspace” (US vs. Causby; a farmer whose chickens were bothered by low-flying bombers in 1946).
    The right of any nation to use outer space freely was established in 1967 in the Outer Space Treaty; no sovereign claims in outer space. The treaty doesn’t explicitly define “outer space”, annoyingly, but it implies at several points that it includes anything in orbit, which pretty much means 100km and up.

  8. Private airspace in NYC and other skyscraping cities is now well above 500 feet. In the U.S. and Canada, FL 600 (a nominal altitude of 60,000 feet ~ 18 km, varying with air pressure) is the limit of controlled airspace, so operation above that may technically invade national interest, but is not regulated in detail (visual flight rules still apply, of course — you can’t near-miss other planes with impunity).

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