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Here’s a a charming story: On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse. Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought. The curly-haired man tried to keep…

Crackpots

Did you hear the one about how Charles Darwin wasn’t the creator of natural selection? Did you know that other people had had the idea before him? Oh, you did know that? Because anyone who has ever spent five minutes learning about the history of evolutionary thought knows that? Well, tell that to Daniel Engber…

Sunday Chess Problem

It’s been a busy few weeks. I hosted a Passover seder. (What? Atheists can’t have seders?) Actually, I run a pretty laid back seder, all the more so this year considering there were goyim in attendance. It’s mostly just a big dinner with some Hebrew and matzoh and charoset thrown in for fun. But if…

Sunday Chess Problem

This week I have another problem from Milan Vukcevich for you. It was published in 1998. The position below calls for white to move and mate in five. White has two main ideas in this position. One is to move his bishop to f4, with the plan of giving mate on d6. The other is…

The Final POTW

My trip to New York was a lot of fun. Some friends from Kentucky were visiting me this weekend, and that was fun too. But in all the chaos Sunday Chess Problem ended up taking the week off. Sorry about that! It will return next week. POTW, on the other hand, is not taking the…

Penultimate POTW Now Available!

I have just posted the penultimate POTW for the term, along with the “official” solution to last week’s problem. Only one more problem after this, then it’s nothing until the fall. Enjoy them while they last!

Sunday Chess Problem

Folks, I’m back from Atlanta. This trip was the meat in a travel sandwich that started with my brief visit to Indiana two weeks ago, and ends with my trip to New York on Wednesday. (I’m speaking at The Museum of Mathematics!) Busy, busy, busy. But not too bus to serve up a Sunday Chess…

To Atlanta!

I’m leaving for Atlanta tomorrow, to participate in the biennial Gathering For Gardner conference. Martin Gardner’s interests were math, magic, and fighting pseudoscience. My kind of guy! While I’m away, you can discuss Sergey Karjakin’s surprise win in the big chess candidate’s tournament. His victory gets earns him a title match against World Champion Magnus…

POTW 8 Posted

I’ve just posted the eighth Problem Of the Week, along with a solution to last week’s problem. Only two more problems to go before we hang up our spurs until the fall.

Meyer Weighs In

It turns out the big Lawrence Krauss/Stephen Meyer debate is two and a half hours long. I’ve started watching it in installments. So far I’ve only gotten through Krauss’ thirty minute opening presentation. I thought it was decent, though Krauss was overly nasty towards his sparring partner in his opening remarks. I sympathize with the…

Sunday Chess Problem

Some chess problems are engineering marvels featuring deep and complex strategy. Other problems are elegant and delightful, and serve as reminders of just how much play can be squeezed out of a small number of pieces. This week’s problem is of the latter sort. It was composed by Normal Macleod in 1962. The position below…

Reading Douglas Axe’s rather simplistic musings on natural selection reminded me of one of my very favorite creationist quotes. It comes from Jonathan Sarfati, in his book Refuting Evolution 2. Sarfati is one of the more fire-breathing young-earthers. I’ve always had some sympathy for him, since at one time he was the chess champion of…

Creationist Probability

When I got interested in evolution, one of the first books I read was The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins. I had never heard of Dawkins before reading that book. I read it simply because I happened to notice it a the public library and thought it had a cool cover. The book’s third chapter…

POTW 7!

The seventh POTW has been posted. Enjoy! While at the Indiana math conference, I had the pleasure of seeing a short magic show by Caleb Wiles, who lives in Indianapolis and was apparently a math major at one time. I was impressed! It turns out he will at some point be appearing on Penn and…

Sunday Chess Problem

The big Go match came to an exciting conclusion. The computer won the first three (out of five) games, thereby winning the match, against Go world champion Lee Sedol. In the press conference after the third game the tenor was that it was impressive that Sedol was able to compete as strongly as he had,…