Organ music sting @ 10:08 pm
Journal of No. 118
March 9th, 2014
Organ music sting @ 10:08 pm
Native Diver exhumed @ 04:20 pm
Now that Inglewood's Hollywood Park is defunct as a track, I'm kinda glad that they're taking some care in the transitiion period.
USC Archeology Students Help Dig Up Remains Of Famed Horse
Native Diver "was the first California-bred horse to win $1 million racing in Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar. ... Native Diver will be re-buried at Del Mar — the site of his last win."
Trouble at Bryan College @ 03:33 pm
Fascinating story about some friction between the administration and the faculty and students of Bryan College in Dayton, TN. Not only is that the home of the Scopes Trial, but the school is named after William Jennings Bryan.
The friction started some time ago with some other unpopular actions, like the president covering up the arrest of a faculty member on attempted child molestation charges. But most recently, the school unexpectedly and without consulting its faculty altered its statement of belief to require the belief that Adam & Eve "are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms."
In the ensuing aftermath, one trustee has resigned, and the faculty, upset at "the secrecy and swiftness" of this change, carried out a no confidence vote of the president.
"We knew that it would go public," he said. "We knew that it would be damaging to the president's reputation and the college. But we felt that the damage that had been done to the institution outweighed that reservation."
A Mathematician's Apology, by GH Hardy @ 11:46 am
A Mathematician's Apology is an interesting insight into the mind of a mathematician, an investigation of what mathematics 'really' is, and why one would want to mess about with it. It's a relatively brief work, written in 1940 when Hardy was in his 60s and, he sadly concluded, was quite finished as a mathematician. Probably the most famous quote from the work is Hardy's dictum that mathematics is a "young man's game." The edition I have on the Kindle also includes an introduction by CP Snow that is nearly as long as the work itself, and provides a lot more biographical detail, including details of his student life:
Hardy had decided-I think before he left Winchester-that he did not believe in God. With him, this was a black-and-white decision, as sharp and clear as all other concepts in his mind. Chapel at Trinity was compulsory. Hardy told the Dean, no doubt with his own kind of shy certainty, that he could not conscientiously attend. The Dean, who must have been a jack-in-office, insisted that Hardy should write to his parents and tell them so. They were orthodox religious people, and the Dean knew, and Hardy knew much more, that the news would give them pain-pain such as we, seventy years later, cannot easily imagine.
One of Hardy's claims to fame is having discovered the self-taught & idiosyncratic Indian mathematician Ramanujan, who had sent some of his bizarre discoveries to him. "[Hardy] was accustomed to receiving manuscripts from strangers, proving the prophetic wisdom of the Great Pyramid, the revelations of the Elders of Zion, or the cryptograms that Bacon had inserted in the plays of the so-called Shakespeare.
So Hardy felt, more than anything, bored. He glanced at the letter, written in halting English, signed by an unknown Indian, asking him to give an opinion of these mathematical discoveries."
Hardy was soon intrigued, and took the time to puzzle some of out. An interesting detail of which I was unaware is that...
"But I mentioned that there were two persons who do not come out of the story with credit. Out of chivalry Hardy concealed this in all that he said or wrote about Ramanujan. The two people concerned have now been dead, however, for many years, and it is time to tell the truth. It is simple. Hardy was not the first eminent mathematician to be sent the Ramanujan manuscripts. There had been two before him, both English, both of the highest professional standard. They had each returned the manuscripts without comment. I don't think history relates what they said, if anything, when Ramanujan became famous."
Snow also talks of Hardy's abiding love of cricket, and how he (Snow) would have to study up on the latest scores before visiting Hardy, in order to help cheer Hardy up in his later years of illness.
But to finally get to the man himself in his own words, Hardy more or less rejected the idea that the pursuit of mathematics is justified by its technological fruits:
"The mass of mathematical truth is obvious and imposing; its practical applications, the bridges and steam-engines and dynamos, obtrude themselves on the dullest imagination. The public does not need to be convinced that there is something in mathematics.
All this is in its way very comforting to mathematicians, but it is hardly possible for a genuine mathematician to be content with it. Any genuine mathematician must feel that it is not on these crude achievements that the real case for mathematics rests, that the popular reputation of mathematics is based largely on ignorance and confusion, and that there is room for a more rational defence."
He also considered that, even if mathematics was unimportant, it might well be right for those with an aptitude to pursue it. "Poetry is more valuable than cricket, but Bradman would be a fool if he sacrificed his cricket in order to write second-rate minor poetry."
There is virtually no mathematics in the work, but there are occasional allusions to things that were unfamiliar to me: "Farey is immortal because he failed to understand a theorem which Haros had proved perfectly fourteen years before; the names of five worthy Norwegians still stand in Abel's Life, just for one act of conscientious imbecility, dutifully performed at the expense of their country's greatest man." [I haven't the faintest idea what that refers to.]
Getting back to heart of the matter: "THERE are then two mathematics. There is the real mathematics of the real mathematicians, and there is what I will call the `trivial' mathematics, for want of a better word. The trivial mathematics may be justified by arguments which would appeal to Hogben, or other writers of his school, but there is no such defence for the real mathematics, which must be justified as art if it can be justified at all."
And here's one last awkwardly timed prediction: "There is one comforting conclusion which is easy for a real mathematician. Real mathematics has no effects on war. No one has yet discovered any warlike purpose to be served by the theory of numbers or relativity, and it seems very unlikely that anyone will do so for many years."
March 7th, 2014
February 28th, 2014
See? The system works. Er, wait... @ 05:18 pm
First the North Carolina school wouldn't allow the Secular Students Alliance club to form.
Then the school would allow it to form.
Then due to threats and verbal abuse against her and her family & friends, the would-be club founder has decided not to form the club after all.
The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver @ 04:00 pm
why so many predictions fail -- but some don't.
One of my favorite things is the cover, with all the additional 'noise'.
Each chapter takes on a specific realm of prediction, or a particular aspect. Weather, baseball, poker, the economy, Bayes' Theorem, etc. Probably the best part of the book is Silver's interviews with various experts who explain a lot about how they make predictions, and in particular the focus on the limitations of these predictions. As he tells it, the book is divided in two halves: "The first seven chapters diagnose the prediction problem [this is the good stuff] while the final six explore and apply Bayes's solution."
Silver's own voice is not as compelling as that of some of the experts, and though he talks about his work in baseball stats and his brief time as a professional poker player, I was surprised that he doesn't talk all that much about his political predictions and poll-mashing. I also have some quibbles with some of his examples and analogies. But still, especially in the first half of the book, there's a lot of good material about modeling, prediction, and probability, and how to identify and avoid the traps we inevitably fall into (even when we know how to identify and avoid the traps).
February 24th, 2014
Wedlock, by Wendy Moore @ 07:59 pm
The full title is Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore.
Having enjoyed her other lengthily subtitled book on How to Create the Perfect Wife, I moved on to this one, also in roughly the same period of English history. If anything, it's even better. While the young women of 'Wife' are largely ciphers (at least in the sense of having left behind written records), here both members of the disastrous marriage are vivid creatures with long paper trails.
The actual title of this book is.... Worst. Husband. Evar.
Mary Bowes was a wealthy heiress, whose first husband was the Earl of Strathmore, who died of TB (though not before the marriage produced 5 children). Since Victorianism was still in the future, Mary dallied fairly freely during and after her marriage.
And now the highlighting feature of the Kindle will haunt you with long blockquotes.
Educated to an unusually high standard by her doting father, Mary Eleanor had established a modest reputation for her literary efforts and was fluent in several languages. More significantly, she had won acclaim in the almost exclusively male-dominated world of science as a gifted botanist. Encouraged by senior figures in London's Royal Society, she had stocked her extensive gardens and hothouses with exotic plants from around the globe and was even now planning to finance an expedition to bring back new species from southern Africa. According to one writer, she was simply “the most intelligent female botanist of the age.”
Now an heiress and a countess, Mary chose as her next husband...
( an Irish fortune hunterCollapse )
February 22nd, 2014
Jury duty @ 04:08 pm
My crossed fingers may have worked. Although, being skeptical, I never actually crossed any digits.
Monday was a holiday, and I went TWT unscathed, but naturally they called be in on Friday. Once again, it was DTLA.
They called a couple panels in the morning, but I was unscathed. Almost, anyway. The exciting moment of the morning was when the chippy next to me pulled an apple from her purse and started munching away. One wide jawed crunch sent a spray of apple juice onto my leg and my Kindle screen. She was appropriately apologetic.
At lunch, I semirandomly chose Lazy Ox for lunch. It was good, but the price/performance ratio was not that good. Also, though I asked for fries, I wound up with salad on the side. Considering how long it took, I didn't kick, but I think someone else got my fries. It was good, but the best part of it was the whole grain mustard. The sangria was exemplary.
Back in the afternoon, and you are ultrasensitive to any further calls. A roomful of Roderick Ushers, we were demoralized when at 3 pm there was another call. And this was no usual call, but the judge had issued some stipulations to be read to us.
90 days. NINETY DAYS. We were told this trial would last 90 days. We were offered the unusual liberty of answering "No" when our names were called, if we met the stipulations for excuse the judge set forth. I felt sure they would call all our names to get a solid number, but it was not so. And my name was not called at all. Another hour, and they set us free. Buoyed, I placed a take-out order to Cole's. It may not have been as warm as one would've liked, after I fought the 10 and La Brea home, but it was still purty good.
February 21st, 2014
Monsters! by Gustavo Duarte @ 09:51 am
Monsters! is a graphic novel -- a collection of three short wordless stories by Brazilian artist Duarte. The book from Dark Horse is beautiful, and I appreciated the foreword from Sergio Aragones (Yay!), who spells out how Duarte fits into something of a tradition of, what, Hispanic(?) Iberian(?) comic art. Being without dialog, the stories are somewhat simple, but enjoyable, from a humorous alien abduction to a Twilight Zone-y appointment with fate to the monster-hunting title story.
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Journal of No. 118