Archives for December, 2006

Math in New Orleans

Next week I’ll be travelling to New Orleans to participate in the big Joint Mathematics Meetings. The “Joint” refers to the fact that it is cosponsored by the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America (no Life of Brian jokes please.) As you can see, on Saturday the 6th I will be delivering…

Update: December 30, 2006: Somehow it slipped past me that P.Z. Myers had already shredded the Hitchens piece. Sorry about that. By all means have a look at his eloquent demolition as well. Here’s Peter Hitchens weighing in on the evolution/ID dispute, writing for The Mail on Sunday, which I gather is a British newspaper:…

Smullyan on the Ontological Argument

Raymond Smullyan is name that is probably familiar to a lot of readers of this blog. In addition to being a mathematician and philosopher, he is known for being a master of using brainteasers and other puzzles to illuminate sometimes deep ideas in logic, especially Godel’s theorems. He is perhaps best known for his knight/knave…

Fiasco

One of my projects for the winter break has been to read some of the Iraq War books that keep showing up in the local Barnes and Noble. First up: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks, senior Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post. The book makes for strange reading. On the…

A Probability Puzzle, Part Two

The response to Tuesday’s post, currently at 97 comments, has been very interesting. Since some of the commenters appear to be growing restless, I will put off until tomorrow my epic Iraq war post (based on my having recently waded through all 482 pages of Thomas Ricks’ subtly titled book Fiasco) and talk about probability…

Say Hi to the New Kid

And speaking of internal Seed business, take a moment to go say hi to the newest member of the great SB combine: Developing Intelligence. As Bruce Willis once said, “Welcome to the party, pal!”

Reminiscent of Mrs. McCave, who had twenty-three sons and named them all Dave, it seems that The Seed Mothership is having trouble making distinctions among her progeny. This is EvolutionBlog, folks. evolgen offers a different flavor of delectable bloggy goodness. Apparently this is not the first time this particular confusion has happened: Why, it seems…

What Did Delaware Ever Do To Him?

The New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait doesn’t like Delaware: Last night I drove home from northern New Jersey to Washington and it went smoothly enough except that, as customarily happens on such journeys, we hit a wall of traffic halfway through. What was the cause of it? Delaware. Yes, Delaware, that sinkhole of inequity and greed.…

Boom in Bible Publishing

Have a look at at this interesting article, from The New Yorker, about the boom in Bible publishing: The familiar observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: the Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year. Calculating how many Bibles are sold in the…

Sastra’s Comment

Commenter Sastra, replying to my previous post on this subject, offers what I thnk is a perfect characterization of much of the response to Dawkins’ book: From what I can tell, most of the sophisticated critics of Dawkins feel that he failed to address what I like to call the Argument from Generalized Vagueness. God…

Courtier’s Reply, Follow-Up

Yesterday I linked to P.Z. Myers discussion of a common anti-Dawkins meme. Specifically, that Dawkins’ arguments in The God Delusion are hopelessly superficial, and that his failure to ponder seriously various works of academic theology render his book incomplete at best, and vapid at worst. Richard Dawkins himself has weighed in on Myers’ comments: Congratulations…

Monty Hall Variants

Speaking of the Monty Hall problem, I recently came across this terrific essay (PDF format), by Jeffrey Rosenthal, a professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Toronto. Rosenthal discusses several variants of the Monty Hall problem, and shows how a clever application of Bayes’ Theorem helps to distinguish between them. Here are…

Interesting Questions

Actually, many of the questions Marilyn vos Savant got asked in her column are positively ingenious. They also provide a lot of food for thought. Here are a few that caught my eye. As always, feel free to hash them out in the comments: I need glasses to see things at a distance. When I…

A Probability Puzzle

Many of you are familiar with the old Monty Hall problem. You might also be aware that it rose to prominence as a result of a column in Parade magazine by Marilyn vos Savant. After Savant’s initial discussion of the problem, she received a flood of angry letters, some from actual mathematicians, saying that she…

Myers Nails It

In my post about H. Allen Orr’s review of Dawkins’ The God Delusion, I commented that Orr begins with a standard anti-Dawkins argument: that he doesn’t give adequate consideration to all of the internecine philosophical and theological disputes that surround religious questions. P. Z. Myers has the perfect reply to this argument: