Archives for May, 2011

Truly there is no end to the vapid inanity the HuffPo Religion section will post. Our latest example comes from David Lose, in an essay titled, “Has Atheism Become a Religion?” Want to take bets on whether the answer is “No”? I don’t recall who first said it, but it has been wisely noted that…

A Bright Spot for Israel

It hasn’t been the best week for Israel. President Obama gives a perfectly sensible speech saying publicly what everyone already knows, and the vile right-wing noise-machine presents it as “throwing Israel under the bus.” As Jeffrey Goldberg explains, Netanyahu seems hell-bent on a course that seems so obviously suicidal that you have to wonder what…

Monday Math: A Rant About Jargon

Jerry Coyne calls our attention to this abstract, from a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: We show how to measure the failure of the Whitney move in dimension 4 by constructing higher-order intersection invariants of Whitney towers built from iterated Whitney disks on immersed surfaces in 4-manifolds. For Whitney towers…

It is Finished…

The BECB, that is. (That’s the big evolution/creationism book, for those not up on the local slang.) Many years ago, my thesis adviser, exasperated that I was “putting the finishing touches” on my thesis for about two straight months, told me heatedly that at some point you have to stop revising and just hand in…

Ruse on the Pope on Evolution

Update, May 17, 2:35 pm: Many thanks to Jerry Coyne for clearing up the question of Richard Dawkins’s views on human inevitability in evolution. As I thought, Dawkins does not hold the view Ruse attributed to him. Coyne has Dawkins’s response to Ruse’s piece, so follow the link and go have a look. It’s been…

Cute Overload

Animals With Stuffed Animals. The name says it all.

In last week’s post we discussed perfect numbers. These were numbers, like 6, 28 and 496, that are equal to the sums of their proper divisors. We referred to Euler’s formula, which claims that every even perfect number has the form \[ 2^{p-1} \left(2^p-1 \right), \] where the term in parentheses is prime. As we…

The Perils of False Certainty

Except for the part about getting up early on a Saturday, I’ve always kind of liked graduation. Quite a few of our graduating majors have had several courses with me, so it was nice to be able to congratulate them and meet their families. And since our stadium here is currently under construction, we have…

Time for a quick quiz. Who here finished all his grading today and, with the exception of scraping his carcass out of bed tomorrow morning to go to graduation, has now officially started his summer break? If you answered me, you’re right! So let’s get caught up on some blogging. We start on a light…

In last week’s post, we discussed Mersenne primes. These were primes of the form: \[ 2^p-1, \phantom{x} \textrm{where} \phantom{x} p \phantom{x} \textrm{is prime.} \] I mentioned that such primes are relevant to the problem of finding perfect numbers. So how about we flesh that out? Let’s define a function that takes in positive integers and…

The War on Teachers

Writing in The New York Times, Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari bring some blessed common sense to the subject of teacher salaries: WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we…