You really must check in on the big morality discussion over at Uncommon Descent. Barry Arrington has done another post on the subject. It's just more snarling and buffoonery, but I do suggest browsing the comments. RDFish, the “idiot” who caused Arrington's latest fit of apoplexy, has shown extraordinary patience and lucidity in responding point by point. He's administering quite the spanking, actually. Arrington, for his part, has nothing beyond abuse and insults to offer in reply. He's just making a fool of himself. For a taste, check out this comment from RDFish, and this reply…

I occasionally check in with the pro-ID blog Uncommon Descent, on the off chance they may have said something interesting. Sadly, the blog has mostly fallen on hard times. Nowadays it's mostly just post after post whose only point is to demean and insult people, or to proffer absurd misunderstandings of thermodynamics.
Sometimes, though, they really come through. Every once in a while they present an argument so carefully reasoned, so cogently thought-out, that the rest of us must sit-up and take notice. Folks, one such post has recently appeared. It was authored by Barry Arrington, who…

I have now posted the final POTW for the semester. That's right! After this, there will no more POTWs until September. So go have a look, and tell me what you think.

Okay, I'm back from Tennessee. The talk went pretty well, and the conference was a lot of fun. So let's celebrate with another installment of Sunday Chess Problem!
Our last entry featured a series mover. It seemed to be well-received, and they happen to be fairly easy to blog. So let's try another one! The following problem was composed by Josif Krikheli in 1966. It calls for Series Helpmate in 25:
Our last entry called for Series Selfmate, so this one is a bit different. We have seen normal helpmates, in which black moves first and both sides cooperate to create a position in which…

I'll be heading off to Knoxville, Tennessee on Friday afternoon. Saturday morning I will be giving the big keynote talk at an undergraduate research conference at the University of Tennessee. Do you think maybe I'll be talking about the Monty Hall problem? I think maybe I will! So, if you're going to be in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello.
Come to think of it, the last time I was in Knoxville I was attending an intelligent design conference. The highlights are discussed in section two of Among the Creationists. I wrote about it in even more detail in a series of posts at this…

One of the many problems with the essay discussed in yesterday's post is that it was poorly written. Finnis and George seemed to go out of their way to be as unclear as possible, frequently choosing tortured, ambiguous phrasings when clearer options were readily at hand. This is something of an occupational hazard among academics, especially in the social sciences. Too many practitioners seem to think obscurity equals profundity. If you express yourself clearly it is too easy for your critics to spot the shallowness of your ideas.
I recently read a book called Learn to Write Badly: How to…

Okay folks. The ninth Problem of the Week has now been posted. Only one more after this, so enjoy them while they last. I've also posted an “official” solution to Problem Eight, so feel free to have a look at that as well.

It's been complete bedlam at my house lately. I made one of my periodical forays into cultural Judaism this past weekend by hosting a Passover seder. My parents, my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids (ages eight and ten) and some friends, eleven in all, packed into my small house. It was a lot of fun, but stressful too. The poor cats had a rough weekend, since they're morbidly afraid of anyone who isn't me. This was disappointing to my niece and nephew, who had been told that there would be cats to play with.
But that's all behind me now, so it's time to get back to sneering…

Sorry, I just realized I never got around to posting the link to the new Problem of the Week. I've generally been impressed with the comments that have been left on previous POTWs, so hopefully folks will find this one interesting as well. I think it's a little bit easier than the last two, but you do have to look at it the right way. Good luck!

In this recent essay at The New York Times, philosopher Gary Gutting argues that the Catholic Church should reconsider its ban on gay sex and its opposition to gay marriage, for explicitly Catholic reasons. He is especially critical of “natural law” arguments against homosexuality.
It’s mostly a sensible essay, I think, but it is not the subject of this post. Instead I shall consider this reply to Gutting, written by John Finnis and Robert George. They were unhappy with Gutting, a philosophy professor at Notre Dame, for being so dismissive of natural law. Sadly, though, their attempted…

I had originally picked out another Circe problem for your enjoyment this week. However, this particular problem was in the genre of “series” movers, and it occurred to me that I had never shown you one of those before. I didn't want your first one to be the rather complex affair I had selected. So, instead I picked out a simpler series problem, just to illustrate how the genre works. But after preparing this problem, I then discovered that the Circe series problem I wanted to use turned out to be cooked. Oh well. You're getting this one anyway!
This problem was composed by George…

My main line of research is in algebraic graph theory. In particular I am interested in the eigenvalue spectra of Laplacians on graphs. Those don't often get mentioned over at HuffPo, so I raised an eyebrow when I saw this:
A mathematician by the name of John Urschel recently published a complex paper in the Journal of Computational Mathematics entitled, “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fielder Vector of Graph Laplacians.”
Mr. Urschel's paper is newsworthy because of this:
A mathematician publishing a math paper wouldn't normally be news, except that John Urschel the…

As you might have noticed, Sunday Chess Problem had the week off. If you really need to get your fix, though, you can have a look at this web page I made for my chess problems. You'll recognize a few of them from the Sunday Chess Problem series.
I did, however, manage to get the new POTW up. Number seven, this week. I also posted an “official” solution to last week's problem. So go have a look and let me know what you think!

Secondlawapalooza has broken out over at Uncommon Descent, with a series of posts trying one more time to convince the thinking world that either evolution or abiogenesis violates the second law of thermodynamics. They are unmoved by the fact that the violation exists only in their minds.
One recent post, by Eric Anderson, is entitled, “Second Thoughts on the Second Law: Extending an Olive Branch.” He outlines what he sees as myths that each side holds about the other, and then imagines that he is laying down a little clear thinking and common sense. I'm afraid, though, that his olive…

School has started up again, and so has Problem Of the Week! Problem six has now been posted. As I've mentioned, in the second half of the semester the problems get a bit harder. But have a go at it anyway, and feel free to leave solutions in the comments.

With the students returning tomorrow I'm afraid I have to blog and run. But I do want to continue my look at Circe problems this week. So here's a minor effort of mine, published in the U. S. Problem Bulletin all the way back in 1994. The stipulation calls for mate in ten. But remember that we're playing under Circe rules:
Let me remind you how Circe works. Everything proceeds as in normal chess until a piece is captured. When that happens, the captured piece is immediately reborn on its home square in the initial game array. So, for example, if the white queen is ever captured during…

Today's date is March 14, 2015. That's 3/14/15. That's the first five digits of pi! And if you're using 12-hour time, then you have two chances to be reading this at 9:26:53. That's the first ten digits of pi! Oh happy day!
And a welcome chance to stick a thumb in the eye of all those buzzkills who would prefer we celebrate tau day instead.
Since pi is an infinite, nonrepeating decimal whose digits, so far as anyone can tell, are statistically random, we might wonder if every ten-digit sequence of digits appears somewhere in its decimal expansion. If the answer is yes, then any…

In yesterday's post I mentioned that I wanted to use spring break to make progress on various writing and research projects.
One of those projects is based on one of the Darwin Day talks I gave in February, in which I discussed some of the mathematical arguments used by anti-evolutionists. In my preparations I gathered together far more material than I could possibly include in the talk itself, so I thought I would turn it all into a proper article. The title would be something like, “The Evolution Of Anti-Evolutionary Mathematics.” Partly the intent would be to gather together and refute…

Blogging will continue to be light around here for at least another week. It's spring break, you see. That's hard to believe considering that Thursday and Friday of last week were both snow days, meaning that our spring break opened with a raging blizzard.
Spring break is a good time to make progress on various writing and research projects that inevitably take a back seat during the semester. When the students are in town, being a college professor is pretty much a standard, nine-to-five sort of job. Our days are mostly taken up with classes, preparing for classes, office hours, grading…

One of the underappreciated aspects of chess composition is that some problems have a sense of humor. Sure, the real classics show deep and surprising ideas and do so with impressive constructional finesse. But other problems just bring a smile to your face. This week I have two such problems for you. Neither is difficult to solve. In fact, they are both trivial to solve. But both made me smile when I saw them, and that makes them good problems in my book!
Last week I reported on The US Amateur Team East chess tournament. One of the great joys of this tournament is the chess bookstore…