A Quick Note About Comments

I’m currently working out of my New Jersey office, which is to say I am home for Thanksgiving. I just wanted to mention, though, that I have my settings adjusted so that comments are automatically cut off on any post that is more than three weeks old. Comment threads that remain open too long tend…

To Baltimore!

On Thursday I’ll be heading up to Baltimore to give a talk at Johns Hopkins University. I’ll be discussing an old favorite: The Monty Hall Problem! Actually, it’s been about two years since I’ve given a talk on that particular subject, so it will be nice to have an excuse to revisit it. From there…

POTW Returns!

After taking last week off, Problem of the Week returns. This week’s problem has several possible answers, so even after a solution gets posted you can feel free to look for others. In fact, I’d be curious to know the various approaches people took to solve the problem. Did anyone come up with anything more…

Sunday Chess Problem

Babson Task problems are hard work, so we shall resume our consideration of them next week. Instead I have a lovely lightweight problem for you this week, composed by Pal Benko in 1968. Actually, you can have an interesting philosophical discussion about whether this problem was composed or discovered. In the position below, white is…

Testing the Multiverse

Here’s an interesting article from Quanta. It’s about efforts by physicists to test the idea of the multiverse: If modern physics is to be believed, we shouldn’t be here. The meager dose of energy infusing empty space, which at higher levels would rip the cosmos apart, is a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion…

Chris Mooney has an astonishingly weak op-ed in a recent edition of The Washington Post. Desperate to make an argument that liberals deny science just as surely as conservatives do, he seizes on a recent study that shows a large percentage of sociologists are not open to the idea that certain gender differences are the…

Politics

Here in the math department at James Madison University, we are currently debating certain changes to the major. The problem is that we have distinct groups in pure mathematics, applied mathematics, statistics and math education. We also have students that major in mathematics for very different reasons. Some are training to be teachers, some are…

The Pope On Evolution

It is not just his controversial stance that the Church should dial back its dickishness towards homosexuals that has brought attention to Pope Francis. He has also weighed in on evolution: Pope Francis on Monday (Oct. 27) waded into the controversial debate over the origins of human life, saying the big bang theory did not…

Assisted Suicide, Again

Brittany Maynard died this weekend. If you are not familiar with her story, she tells it here, in her own words. On New Year’s Day, after months of suffering from debilitating headaches, I learned that I had brain cancer. I was 29 years old. I’d been married for just over a year. My husband and…

A New Locked-Room Anthology!

I’m sure you remember my epic, two-part series, from 2008, about my love for locked-room mysteries: Part One, Part Two. Well then, I’m sure you can imagine my delight at learning of the publication of Otto Penlzer’s new anthology The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries. Penzler has a short essay up over at…

Sunday Chess Problem

Our diagram position today was composed by Joseph Babson in 1927. The stipulation is selfmate in three: Recall that in a selfmate, white plays first and forces black to give checkmate. That’s right! White is trying to get checkmated, while black is doing everything in his power to avoid giving checkmate (or at least to…

Chaos In The Church

Pope Francis has been continuing his campaign of liberalization within the Roman Catholic Church. At the recent synod on the family, reform-minded bishops within the Church, many installed by Francis, proposed language that, while not changing doctrine, would have liberalized the Church’s stance toward homosexuals and divorced people. The paragraphs that are getting all the…

POTW 6

If you’re in the mood, go have a look at the new Problem of the Week. It’s a Shakespeare-themed alphametic this week, with bonus sonnet! It’s a bit more challenging than last week’s problem (a solution to which has now been posted at the above link), but still doable if you look at it right.…

Sunday Chess Problem

The Spetember 2014 issue of The Problemist showed up in my mailbox this week. That’s the official magazine of the British Chess Problem Society, as I’m sure you’re aware. It included the problem below. It’s one of those delightful compositions that makes you wish you had thought it of it yourself. It was composed by…

Responses to Barash’s Talk

Recently I discussed an essay by David Barash that appeared in The New York Times. Barash discussed a talk he gives to his animal behavior class about evolution and religion. More specifically, he explains why, in his view, evolution and religion are just incompatible. I mostly agreed with the substantive points that he made, but…