### 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 Carlsen. Current plans are for the match to take place in November in New York. I'll believe it when it happens!

### 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 sentiments, but I think he overdid it. I haven't watched Meyer's presentation yet, but it looks like I may not have to, what with the internet all abuzz with people commenting on it. Stephen Meyer himself has now weighed in on the Richard Dawkins comment I…

### 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 calls for white to play and mate in two: Let's consider white's options. The move 1. Nd6 looks strong. This doesn't threaten anything immediately, but the knight is eyeing the squares b7 and c4. Black has to move his bishop. Moving it along the a2-g8 diagonal leaves…

### Another Creationist Bonbon On Natural Selection

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 New Zealand. But his writing on evolution is pretty much a bottomless pit. Have a look at this: When they begin to talk about mutations, evolutionists tacitly acknowledge that natural selection, by itself, cannot explain the rise of new genetic…

### 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 is called, “Accumulating Small Change.” In it, Dawkins explains how the prolonged action of natural selection can craft complex structures. He introduces his famous, “Methinks it is like a weasel” experiment. More precisely, he does two experiments. In the first, random strings of characters are…

### 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 Teller's television show Fool Us! So, here's a short video of him performing some elegant sleight of hand:

### 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, given the handicap of a mere human brain to work with. But then Sedol won game four! Yay humanity! It even looked like he was on his way to winning game five as well, after poor opening play by the computer. But the beast rallied and managed a come from behind win. One thing that became…

### POTW 6 Posted

Spring break has ended. It is a great sadness. But that means that POTW can now return! Life is full of tradeoffs.

### Interesting Times For Chess and Go Players

For the chess fans, the big candidates tournament begins in Moscow tomorrow. Eight of the top players in the world will be competing for the chance to face Magnus Carlsen in a match for the title. As it happens, the US has two representatives: Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Going strictly by ratings, they are the first and third seeds. And they are paired in the first round! And Go is center stage as well. Hot on the heels of the first-ever victory by a computer over a strong human go player, Google's program AlphaGo is now playing a five-game match with the human world champion…

### On Teaching Math

Periodically some social scientist notices that math is abstract and difficult. Thinking that math educators have overlooked this fact, he breathlessly reports his findings as a great discovery he has made. The latest example is Andrew Hacker, a political scientist at Queen's College. In a new book, The Math Myth and Other STEM Delusions, he presumes to lecture us all on the proper way of teaching math. It turns out that what people really need is “quantitative literacy,” as opposed to a lot of abstract argle bargle about logarithms and trigonometry. Gosh, who knew? (“STEM,”…

### Sunday Chess Problem

One of the pleasures of playing in the US Amateur Team East is getting to browse the offerings from Fred Wilson's chess store. I've acquired a number of choice books from him over the years, especially in the area of chess composition. This year I was able to snatch up a copy of The Two-Move Chess Problem: Tradition and Development, by John Rice, Michael Lipton, and Barry Barnes. The book was published in 1966, but all three of these gentlemen remain prominent problemists to this day. The book includes this little gem, composed by R. Bukne in 1946. It's white to play and mate in two: We…

### Toobin on Scalia

Writing at The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin provides some helpful pushback against the nauseating wave of Scalia hagiography: Antonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor. The great…

### The Epic USATE Post! 2016 Edition!

It's hard to believe it's been a year since the last one of these epic posts. But it's time once more to report on the goings-on at the US Amateur Team East chess tournament. I don't play a lot of tournament chess anymore, but I always like to come out of retirement for this one. With something like 1500 chessplayers on hand, it's one of the biggest and most enjoyable tournaments of the year. Let me remind you how this works: You play as part of a team of four. That means that in each round you play four individual games of chess, with no communication among teammates. For each game your…

### Second Law Watch

Over at Uncommon Descent, Granville Sewell has popped up one more time to write the same post he always writes. It's the one about how the second law of thermodynamics totally refutes evolution. It's a worth a look, since he is even more explicit than usual that there is nothing more to his argument than: The second law says things break down, but evolution says things get built up. His post comes in a series of numbered points. I especially liked this: 3. Since the reason thermal and carbon (and chromium, etc) distributions become more uniform in an isolated system is that the laws of…

### Scalia

I spent this weekend playing in the annual chess extravaganza known as the US Amateur Team East (epic blog post to follow). On Saturday night, I was having dinner at an excellent Japanese restaurant with some of my teammates. One of them, who happens to be a lawyer, had his phone out and said, “Hey, you know who just died?” Since he knows the kinds of things I'm interested in, I was afraid he was going to say Richard Dawkins, who recently had a minor stroke. But then he said, “Scalia.” Now, this particular friend is supporting Bernie Sanders in the primary, so that at least suggests he…

### POTW 4!

It went up a little late this week, because of my recent travels, but we do have a new Problem of the Week. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

### Happy Darwin Day!

I'm about to leave town for the weekend, but I did want to poke my head up just long enough to wish everyone a Happy Darwin Day! And just in time for this most wonderful of holidays, my paper on anti-evolutionary mathematics has now been published. In the journal Science and Education, to be precise. Alas, unless you are at an institution that subscribes to this journal, Springer will expect you to pay for it. And it would be a serious copyright violation for me simply to post the paper freely at my website. But if you send me an e-mail at rosenhjd@jmu.edu, I will be happy to send you…

### POTW 2!

The second Problem Of The Week has now been posted, along with an official solution to the first problem. Enjoy!

### Sunday Chess Problem

Helpmates occupy a curious position in the world of chess problems. On the one hand, they seem to be the most popular form nowadays for composers. There are just so many possibilities for original content, especially when fairy pieces or conditions are added to the mix. On the other hand, they are sometimes sneered at by other composers. You sometimes encounter the attitude that direct mates and studies are serious compositions, while everything else is just candy. Whatever. Personally, I sometimes find modern direct mates a little too dense to be enjoyable, while helpmates usually bring…