Thursday, April 29, 2010

Getting Your Medical Info Off of the Web?

Be careful. Here's a guy handing out medical advice who thinks that connective tissue is "the goo between cells." He'd only need the level of medical knowledge you'd get from Encyclopedia Britannica to know that connective tissue includes "bone, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and adipose (fat) tissue." Although he quotes a bunch of medical studies in his article, there is simply no way that someone who believes connective tissue is "goo between cells" can actually comprehend an article from a medical journal -- it's kind of like someone who tells you atoms are "really small bugs" quoting physics journals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Problems 004

One-dimensional drunkard's walk:

Starting from Point X, you stumble discretely east (probability 1/2) and west (probability 1/2) and repeat, indefinitely. Successive stumbles are unrelated, i.e., the former does not in any way predict the latter (nor vice versa). In the long run, what is the average number of stumbles that will bring you back to Point X.

Problems 003

What is 1/1 + 2/2 + 3/4 + 4/8 + 5/16 + 6/32 + ...?

Problems 002

Thanks to Prof. Burton Dreben (Math 281, 1961):

Is there a {computer, computer program, algorithm, etc.} which solves the following problems, i.e., are these problems decidable in the metamathematical sense?

a) Are there 777 consecutive 7's in the decimal expansion of pi?

b) Is there exactly one God?

Or are one or both of these questions perhaps unsolvable?

Problems 001

Welcome to a new, short series of problems, presented here for your, uh, not sure what...

Say you have access to a repeatable experiment whose favorable outcome, utterly randomly determined, is very unlikely--like a state lottery. Say the likelihood of "winning" (whatever that means) is 1 in 1,000,000,000. OK, you repeat it 1,000,000,000 (same number as above) times. What is the likelihood that you still haven't won it even once? What is the likelihood that you have won it exactly once. (1 minus the sum of those two is the likelihood that you have won it two or more times, ending with the very, very small probability that you have won it every single time, or 1,000,000,000 times in all.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Economism: A Modern Religion

Fascinatingly, The Independent Institute has published a book, The New Holy Wars, acknowledging the religious nature of much that passes for economic science. From the summary: "Also, economists typically assume that psychological stress caused by an economic transition to a more efficient allocation of resources is negligible and not worth factoring in."

This was Karl Polanyi's great point: He acknowledged the ability of unfettered markets to produce goods and services, but also claimed that they produced change at a pace with which human beings just could not keep up. Unfettered markets will produce loads of stuff while destroying society and our natural setting in the process.

Ideology and Me

were pretty good company:

"Ideology is not so much a way of seeing the world as it is a set of blinders designed to keep you going in the ‘right’ direction, even when you would normally bolt and run the other way from horror at the sight of the place your faceless rider, Ideology, is taking you." -- Daniel Larison

Central Planning Works!


"All of this means that while the government has been artificially propping up the economy and 'stimulating' it through artificial means, peoples’ perceptions of economic life have been transformed into that which was intended by the central planners: the economic crush is over, our government cured all the problems, things are great again, go back to your old ways. Rinse and repeat."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flash Forward

I like the show, but, like most big budget shows and movies, the writers and directors just can't be bothered to get the little things right. I was just watching an episode where two FBI agents were discussing the villains chess games. One of them says, "He used the queen sacrifice -- one of the most powerful moves in the game." Well, that was bad enough -- as if "the queen sacrifice" was the name for a particular move, rather than a whole class of moves. But it got worse -- on the computer the agents were watching, the showed the move -- and it wasn't a queen sacrifice!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Tribulations of a Philosopher

I was having lunch at a local pub, and got up to go to the gents’ room. There are two at this establishment, but both were occupied, so I took up a position midway between them, in order to grab whichever one opened first. While I was standing there, the owner approached me and asked, “Do you need anything?” (Since I was midway, it wasn’t clear I was waiting for a restroom to become free.)

I responded, “Oh, both bathrooms are in use, so I’ve just positioned myself to move in whatever direction nec…”

I then came to a complete halt. I was thinking, “Is it really right to regard my choice as ‘necessary’? Couldn’t I choose to head to the toilet that freed up second? But, by necessity, perhaps I mean ‘rationally necessary,’ and my freedom of will actually consists in embracing the commands of reason as those of my own will?”

After a couple of seconds, I noticed the owner was staring at me, and I said, “necessary.”

This really happened. Such are the woes of thinking philosophically.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Death from Above

For American pilots, dealing death is often little more than a video game.

A Golf Hole That Makes Me Want to Upchuck

You have to helicopter to the tee. I could not even stand at it, let alone move.

Why Does My Microwave...

emit a loud beep in response to every single interaction I have with it? It beeps when I press a number. Did the manufacturer suspect I might be sleep microwaving and need to be awakened? Then, it beeps when I press the next number one second later. Hey, maybe he's deeply asleep. It beeps four loud times when the cooking time is over. OK, perhaps once is called for -- but if I didn't hear the first, why would I hear the next three? Then, if I don't come get the food out right away, it beeps four times more a minute later, and a minute later...

The final insult is when I run to open the door just before the cooking time is up, in order to stop the beeping from waking people in the house up, it... beeps!

Thanks for letting me know I just opened the door.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pretty Cool Video; Terrible Conclusion

These are great images for getting a feel for the relative sizes of celestial bodies, but... the ending is just dumb. No one ever thought humanity was important because of humans' size! Let's take, say, a medieval Christian. Do you think she wasn't aware of the existence of elephants and whales? That she didn't realize that she was pretty small compared to the Alps? Do you think she didn't know that the number of ants or grains of sand dwarfed the number of humans? Why would discovering even bigger things, or more numerous things, make any difference at all to her view about being "the center of the universe"?

Missing John Bull

It is my longest stretch out of the UK since September of 2004, and do you know what I'm really missing? Those little triangular sandwiches in the plastic and cardboard wrapper.

To ease the pain I just had a cheese and tomato sandwich with a little Branston pickle.

The Internet Itself...

is pretty amazing. But today I was struck (again) by the amazing-ness of the modern Internet compared to the ancient Internet of, say 1995. Do you recall how, on your 28K modem, a large text file could take a couple of minutes to load? Well, I just downloaded 16, half-hour audio lectures in two minutes!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Collingwood on the State

'[Scientism, militarism, and commercialism] deny the very essence of the state, which is concrete freedom in the guise of justice or right, and [replace it] by one form or another expediency. They are alternative forms of that abstractness, that hatred of concrete historical fact, which is the fountain of all political corruption.' -- Speculum Mentis

Pickles, Pickles

I just bought a jar of kosher dills, without ten or so spears in it. I noticed that the entire jar contains only 50 calories. To maintain my current, svelte figure on pickles alone, I would need to eat about 56 jars -- jars, not pickles -- a day. Michael Phelps, to maintain his, would need to eat 240 per day.

Thems a lot of pickles!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Obama OKs Assasination of US Citizen

Greenwald on the case.

Is Polanyi Correct?

"Previously to our time no economy has ever existed that, even in principle, was controlled by markets... The the institution of the market was fairly common since the later Stone Age, its role was no more than incidental to economic life." -- K. Polanyi, The Great Transformation

Distraction Deterrents in Small Contexts

"distracted from distraction by distraction" - T.S. Eliot I've been reading a little on how Facebook and other social netwo...