As Woody Allen once said, "The moose mingles. Did very well. Scored."
Hat tip: Anna.
Recurrent thoughts about mathematics, science, politics, music, religion, and
Recurrent thoughts about mathematics, science, politics, music, religion, and
Recurrent thoughts about mathematics, science, politics, music, religion, and
Recurrent thoughts about ....
I can guess the title of one book that's not on the curriculum in Doug Groothuis's courses: The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll.
Five years ago, I discussed some mathematics in Bad Luck and Trouble. I complained that suddenly, a new characteristic of Reacher was unveiled: he was a gifted mental calculator who could determine the primality of numbers quickly, and he was interested in properties like 'square root of n equals sum of n's base-10 digits'.
Now, in the new Reacher novel, A Wanted Man, Child returns to this numerological interest of his main character. First, Reacher is thinking about automorphic numbers: these are positive integers n such that n2 ends in the same base-10 digits as n.
Then (on page 64), Reacher is thinking about 81, and he "muse[s] about how one divided by 81 expressed as a decimal came out as .0123456789, which then recurred literally forever, 0123456789 over and over and over again..."
The problem? That's not the decimal expansion of 1/81. It's actually 0.012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679012345679 ..., where the period of the expansion is 012345679 and not 0123456789. The "8" is missing! The reason for this is not so surprising, and generalizes easily to the expansion of 1/(n - 1)2 in base n.
A savant like Reacher, who can determine the closest prime to a randomly-chosen 6-digit number in a matter of a few seconds, would not have made such a silly mistake. Maybe Lee Child needs a mathematical consultant for his next novel. Hey, I'm available.
Back in May, he gave a speech at the "Religious Freedom Dinner" in Washington, DC, in which he decried persecution of religious people, but said not a single word about the very real persecution of atheists and other non-religious people around the world.
But it's even worse than that. He actually repeated the tired, old claim that "We know that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion."
But freedom of religion, if it means anything, must include the right to practice no religion at all.
Baird is a hypocrite.
I guess my father liked the tradition of Christmas songs written by Jewish guys.
By contrast, pseudoscience is sterile: the ideas, such as they are, lead to no new insights, suggest no experiments, and are espoused by single crackpots or a small community of like-minded ideologues. The work gets few or no citations in the scientific literature, and the citations they do get are predominantly self-citations.
Here is a perfect example of this sterility: Bio-Complexity, the flagship journal of the intelligent design movement. As 2012 draws to a close, the 2012 volume contains exactly two research articles, one "critical review" and one "critical focus", for a grand total of four items. The editorial board has 30 members; they must be kept very busy handling all those papers.
(Another intelligent design journal, Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design, hasn't had a new issue since 2005.)
By contrast, the journal Evolution has ten times more research articles in a single issue (one of 12 so far in 2012). And this is just a single journal where evolutionary biology research is published; there are many others.
But that's not the most hopeless part. Of the four contributions to Bio-Complexity in 2012, three have authors that are either the Editor in Chief (sic), the Managing Editor, or members of the editorial board of the journal. Only one article, the one by Fernando Castro-Chavez, has no author in the subset of the people running the journal. And that one is utter bilge, written by someone who believes that "the 64 codons [of DNA are] represented since at least 4,000 years ago and preserved by China in the I Ching or Book of Changes or Mutations".
Intelligent design advocates have been telling us for years that intelligent design would transform science and generate new research paradigms. They lied.
But it's not so clear to me. After all, discrimination in employment, housing, and even public accommodation like hotels is outlawed. Why should be it different for services like getting haircuts?
Does the reason for declining to cut the woman's hair matter? Would it be different if the barber pleaded incompetence at cutting women's hair, or if he did for the reason he stated: his Muslim beliefs prevent him from servicing women? How about if he refused to cut the hair of Jews, or blacks? Would that be more or less acceptable?
Of course, these players didn't have to endure anything like the conditions of World War II POW's, and the contracts they got when they arrived gave them unprecedented riches, which they sometimes squandered on alcohol. So I don't really have much sympathy for them to begin with.
Nevertheless, some of the stories are interesting and, not being a hockey fan, I hadn't heard any of them before. Unfortunately, the writing is not very good and the editor didn't bother to fix the problems: misspellings, sentence fragments, and run-on sentences can be found throughout.
Bottom line: 2.5 stars out of 5, suitable mostly for hockey fans.
No, it's not a day devoted to Michael Egnor: that would be Egnorance Year (or perhaps Egnorance Lifetime).
Instead, you'll hear 10 15-minute talks centered around the theme of "What I Wish I Knew about the Mind, Brain, and Intelligence".
One thing I can guarantee you won't hear is nonsense like this, from Ed Feser:
"Thoughts and the like possess inherent meaning or intentionality; brain processes, like ink marks, sound waves, and the like, are utterly devoid of any inherent meaning or intentionality; so thoughts and the like cannot possibly be identified with brain processes."
Only a creationist (like V. J. Torley)* could be so utterly moronic. While Feser and his friends are declaring it impossible, real neuroscientists and neurophilosophers are busy figuring it out.
* Feser seems to think I was calling him a creationist, and on re-reading I understand how he could think that. By "creationist" I intended to refer to the person who quoted Feser and thought Feser's claim deserved quoting. Clearly, though, I was wrong: there are people who are even more moronic than creationists. I apologize for the lack for clarity, and I apologize to creationists for this undeserved association with Feser.
I don't know anything about being an "activist", but I prepared some remarks anyway. Then, when it came time for the panel, people were more interested in asking Sara Mayhew and me questions about our talks, so that's the way it went.
Since I prepared these, this is as good a place as any to record them:
1. It pays to complain. (title of a recurring column in Freethought Today): when you see church-state violations, or creationism in the public schools, or silly pseudoscience or outright scams, complain! Write a letter to the editor, or e-mail to the school board, or report scams to the police. You'd be surprised how much mileage you can get out of a single complaint.
2. Adopt your own style. You don't have to destroy a communion wafer to reach people. If you're comfortable with a more confrontational style, that's fine, but if you're not you can still have an effect.
3. Be scrupulous. You don't have to adopt the tactics of creationists. If you cite a quote, check it out first to make sure it's authentic. If you make a mistake, admit it. "Always do right," Mark Twain said, "This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest."
4. Ask hard questions. If your local elected representative has a meeting, go and ask how old he or she thinks the earth is. Ask their opinion of evolution and global warming. If they say something stupid, you can say "You are aware, I assume, that the scientific consensus is uniformly against you?"
5. Don't pay any attention to foolish detractors, whether they're atheists or not. No matter what you do, there will be critics; the "old school" of atheists like R. Joseph Hoffman are sometimes the silliest of all. Listen to people that have something valuable to contribute and ignore the rest.
6. Learn to be a good speaker. Record yourself and watch it. Watch videos of good speakers, such as Christopher Hitchens, and try to learn from them.
7. Know what you're getting into. Depending on where you live, speaking up might cost you your friends, subject your to attacks on you and your property, or get you fired. Choose your battles wisely! Not everything is worth your job.
Larry Moran exposed the appalling stupidity of the Discovery Institute and everybody laughed at them.
P. Z. Myers gave a good introduction to incomplete lineage sorting and coalescent theory for a general audience, and he explained why it is not at all surprising that part of the gorilla genome is closer to humans and chimps than humans and chimps are to each other. Along the way, Casey Luskin was exposed as a fool or a liar. Everybody laughed again.
P. Z. Myers talked about Canada's "neighbor to the south", but little did he know that his hometown Morris, Minnesota is actually north of Ottawa!
And here's my talk on numerology, if you're interested.
Congratulations to the Watsons and to CFI for a well-run conference!
Fuller thinks that what the intelligent design movement really needs is another creationist geology book. And he thinks that Dembski is updating Shannon on information theory. (That'll be news to everyone who actually does information theory.) I'm really glad that Fuller is the intelligent design movement's favorite philosopher. Imagine the damage he could do if he were on the side of science and reason!
Although the show is one of my favorites, I have to admit it was not as good or funny as shows in the past. They sometimes play old shows or highlights from old shows, and you can hear the difference: they used to have lightning-fast wordplay and deductions, and lately they've been slipping a bit. Maybe they need some new blood: some younger panelists.
Do you have some favorite radio shows that you listen to over the internet? If so, give links in the comments.
This is the usual scam where someone advertises a book that consists of nothing but reprints from freely-available web pages, and then prints a book on demand if someone is stupid enough to buy it.
The same "author" has written 6000 other books.
Believe it or not, the Department of Applied Mathematics at University of Western Ontario, located in London, Ontario, invited the loony Christopher Monckton to give a prestigious invited lecture, the Nerenberg lecture, last March. Previous speakers included Roger Penrose.
In addition to being a pompous twit, Monckton is famous for global warming denial and, in his latest schtick, claiming that Obama's birth certificate is fraudulent.
My source tells me that the invitation to Monckton came from Chris Essex, professor of the department, and another global warming denier. Most of the Department boycotted the talk, I was told.
If anybody attended the talk, I would like to hear about it. This is really a disgrace.
I'll just mention one open problem from Kurt Mahler's last paper: what are the positive integers n, not divisible by 7, such that n2 has only digits 0 and 1 when expressed in base 7? The only examples known are n = 1 and n = 20. There are no other solutions with n < 1.67 · 1011.
Now, just three years later, it is closing. Big surprise there. Administrators were warned that it was unlikely to succeed, and if I remember correctly, our School of Computer Science voted against it. There was a lot of opposition to setting up a campus in a place with little protection for free speech and a free press, as well as violations of women's rights and gay rights.
By the way, the article in the Record I pointed to above is the typical shoddy job done by local reporter Liz Monteiro. There is nothing about how much this failure has cost the University (if anything), nor any interview with anyone originally opposed to the campus, nor any investigation of why the campus was set up to begin with. This is not good journalism.
No, I'm not talking about Mitt Romney. I'm talking about a little-noticed ballot measure -- little-noticed, that is, if you don't live in Ontario or Michigan.
Believe it or not, one of the most important crossings between Canada and the United States -- Ambassador Bridge -- is privately owned by a guy named Matty Moroun. For years people have wanted another bridge, because the existing one can't support the traffic. Canada has even offered to pick up all the cost of the new bridge, so it will be essentially free for the US.
Moroun can't stand the competition, and he's tried in every possible way to block the new bridge. Who cares if the bridge will benefit millions of people on both sides of the border? The only thing that matters is Moroun's profit.
Maybe now this important bridge will get built.
Nearly all the crazies lost: Allen West, Connie Mack, Todd Akin, Joe Walsh, and Richard Mourdock. Unfortunately it looks like we are still stuck with Michele Bachmann. And Judge Roy Moore won election in Alabama. Alabama secures its reputation as the worst place to live in the US.
Elizabeth Warren, who was the subject of nasty attacks about her native American heritage, easily defeated Scott Brown. Brown was not nearly as extremist as depicted by Democrats, but he was in the wrong state. He would have been a decent candidate for a state like Indiana or Pennsylvania, but not Massachusetts.
Maine and Maryland legalized same-sex marriage. Minnesota turned down a bid to change its constitution to prevent same-sex marriage. And Washington voters have apparently approved a law allowing same-sex marriage.
Two states legalized marijuana. This may be the start of a sane drug policy.
As predicted, crazies like Doug Groothuis are apoplectic. Groothuis raves as follows: "American [sic] does not know how to think, has no moral or political principles worth having, is manipulated by images and slogans, does not fear the idol of the State does not give a rip about unborn children; we will be taxes [sic] for their murders, does not believe in its own God-given greatness."
The dishonest Charles Krauthammer was raving about the "nationalization" of health care under Obama. Krauthammer is a liar. If you want to see nationalized health care, go to Britain. Obamacare isn't even close to "nationalization"; it's a timid initiative that maintains the status quo in almost every health care aspect except insurance. Bush's prescription drug benefit was a much bigger change.
Americans proved that the majority was not racist and was not fooled by pandering. That's a very good sign.
Here are my slides for the talk.
I said a lot of things that were not on the slides. In particular: "More foolish things have been said about APL than any other programming language, and Edsger Dijkstra was one of the biggest offenders."
In addition to the talks, there were some really nice displays from the collection of the York University Computer Museum. For example there was an IBM 5100 APL machine (one that I spend several years programming as an undergraduate), and an MCM APL machine.
We also saw a short film by Catherine Lathwell, who is working on a full-fledged documentary about APL.
At a panel we were asked to summarize what APL meant to us. I said something like the following: APL taught us that a good notation is half the battle. Computing is ultimately about insight, and a system that encourages experimentation and variation is one that can be used to treat mathematics almost as if it were an experimental science.
Thanks to Zbigniew Stachniak and Catherine Lathwell for organizing this.
The funniest thing is that the quote they are suing over is not even a direct quote. Faulkner wrote "The past is never dead. It's not even past." -- that's different from what is in the movie, which is "The past is not dead! Actually, it’s not even past."
This is not a lawsuit to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. Oops! I hope Dorothy Parker's literary estate is not going to sue me for that.
Recently I learned about another example, possibly one of the most impressive yet. R. Webster Kehr is a Mormon and ex-Marine who
- thinks that the naturals and the reals are the same size, even though he admits there is no bijection between them. He also describes himself as the author of many mathematical papers, although oddly enough, MathSciNet doesn't list a single one.
- subscribes to cancer quackery
You have to work pretty hard to be so deluded in so many fields simultaneously.
However, he remained an evangelical Christian. And in some ways he continued to argue exactly like a creationist. I remember once on a private mailing list, we had a disagreement about information theory. I quoted definitions from books about information theory to make my point, but these weren't good enough: Morton insisted that he used information theory in the oil industry and was correct and he would not budge from that. No amount of evidence could persuade him.
Now he's had a hissy fit and deleted his own anti-creationism pages. His reason is that most people who fight creationism are "religious bigots" who are taking advantage of his work to further their own agenda.
But take a look at his arguments! They are classic right-wing crackpot stuff:
- "someone got a draft of a book by John [sic] Buell and they were scheming how to put an injunction on his book PRE-PUBLICATION" - Buell's book figured in the Dover trial; I know the people involved and this injunction claim is completely untrue
- "It doesn't matter that the earth stopped warming in 1997 as the UK Met Office reveals in the latest HADCRUT data, one MUST still believe that it is still occurring" - a fabrication, one that was quickly debunked.
- "The president of Chic-Fil-A is not allowed to have freedom of speech or religon if that speech or religion offends the sensitivities of the elitists who think they have a right to hector everyone into their boring conformity." -- Morton clearly doesn't understand freedom of speech; it refers to the right to be free of government censorship, and it doesn't prevent private boycotts of business owned by people you disagree with. The Religious Right puts out boycott requests practically every week; Morton says not a word about these.
- "These same elites will not grant the religious the courtesy and right to put up monuments in the public square." - Morton needs to take a refresher course on the separation of church and state. I defend the right of people to put up religious monuments on private property, but public property is a completely different matter.
- "Why do people think it is ok to ridicule [a Mormon's] beliefs? Debate them, yes, ridicule them? no" - ridiculous beliefs deserve ridicule. Labelling them "religious" doesn't get you a free pass.
- "And if a majority want to teach their kids YEC or that the Martians are living amongst us, they should have that freedom" - How about if a majority wants to keep black students out, or teach that black students are inferior? Still OK? There is a clear public interest in having good science in public schools.
- "Freedom is dear; and you, the religious bigot, are a danger to my freedom." - right! That explains why the ACLU consistently supports the religious rights of Christians. And here is my modest contribution.
I'm sorry to see Glenn Morton leave the fight against creationism, but if his reasons are this intellectually dishonest, I say, good riddance.
The report strongly suggests that the complaints by certain students about his teaching were ridiculous and unfounded. Furthermore, it suggests that the complaints were badly mishandled by the administrators, including James Carson, chair of the Department of History, and Vice-Principal Daniel Bradshaw.
Professor Mason deserves a public apology and compensation from Queen's University.
The paper contains such deathless phrases as "By a little-known result of Fibonacci..." and "It is not yet known whether every real, surjective, pairwise regular functor is ultra-standard". The author pairings in the bibliography include Atiyah and Leibniz, and Atiyah and Eudoxus. Very nice work.
Mary Ellen Marsh of Sydney River said she thought someone was at her door and then realized it was a moose. She said the moose was in the neighbourhood for about an hour, going from yard to yard and down the street.
The animal visited Sydney River Elementary, where she made an impression on students.
Mikki Armishaw, the principal, said, “The children just went out of their minds.”
Boolean matrices have a natural interpretation in terms of directed graphs: given a graph G on n vertices, we put a 1 in row i and column j of M if there is a directed edge in G from vertex i to vertex j, and 0 otherwise. Then the boolean matrix power Me has a 1 in row i and column j if and only if there is a directed path from vertex i to vertex j of length e.
Given an n × n boolean matrix M, a natural question is, what is the largest size s(n) of the semigroup generated by M under boolean matrix multiplication? In other words, how many distinct powers can M have, in the worst case? Believe it or not, this natural quantity has received very little attention in the literature. There is a paper by Markowsky in 1977, and another by Denes, Roush, and Kim in 1983, but that's about it. For small n, it is known that s(n) = n2 - 2n + 2, while for larger n, it is known that s(n) is approximately g(n), Landau's function, which counts the maximal order of an element in the symmetric group of order n. It is known that Landau's function is approximately esqrt(n log n), so this tells us how s(n) behaves for large n. But to my knowledge nobody knows the exact value, or even small values past n = 20. This might be a nice computational challenge for an undergraduate.
But here in Canada, we're trying harder. We have a police chief in Winnipeg who thinks the solution to crime in his city is to pray a lot.
The embarrassing thing is not that there are people who hold such beliefs. The embarrassing thing is that we vote for such people, or appoint them to positions of power.
"In any sexual union, it is God who decides whether or not there will be conception of a child.
"From that moment of conception, there is a new human life. God wants that human being or the child would not have been conceived."
"What right has the woman to snuff out the life of that human being?"
When someone has such a medieval view of the world, unencumbered by our modern understanding of biology and reproduction, is it even possible to reason with them? I don't think so. The gulf is just too wide.
Lord used a quote, said to be by George Wald in Scientific American in 1957, to support his creationist views. Only problem? Wald never said what Lord claimed; it is a well-known fabrication.
I wrote to Lord to point this out. But, despite the fact that he has a weekly column in the Bulletin, he never admitted his misrepresentation in print. Nor did he admit that he gave the bogus quote without citing his source.
Now, out of the blue, Lord writes me again to say that he is praying for me and boasting how about he has grown in his faith since his lies and plagiarism appeared in print.
Lord hasn't grown at all: he's refused to publicly admit his misconduct. He's the typical liar for Jesus: willing to defame a good scientist like Wald by publishing a bogus quotation, but unwilling to retract it publicly.
The organizer, Masoud Alam, is quoted as saying, "This is not freedom of expression, there is a limit for that. This insult of the Prophet will not be allowed... Until it is banned we will keep protesting."
Yes, it will be allowed. In a free society, just because you label some belief as "religious" doesn't mean I can't criticize it. And you are free to lie and say things like, "Prophet Muhammad is the founder of freedom of speech", and I can criticize that, too.
Islam is badly in need of a reform movement.
Maybe they should change the name of their government to "Vichy". Now that's a language change that would represent truth in advertising.
Then there's Canada's denial of entry to Terry Jones. Sure, Jones is a first-class creep who has nothing to contribute, but they let creeps into the country every day. They let David Irving in, after all.
By refusing entry to Terry Jones, Canada sends the message that there are some ideas that are just too scary for Canadians to hear. That's a bad message, and a bad precedent.
Now we have the appalling prospect of Shelagh Rogers interviewing the repulsive Michael Coren, who is allowed to blather on and on about how poor Christianity is maligned and Christians aren't taken seriously, all without her asking a single hard question. Coren even gets labeled an "intellectual"!
Next, in my local paper, columnist Luisa D'Amato calls it "intolerance", "ill will", "oppressive", and "authoritarian" because Federal Minister Rona Ambrose was criticized for supporting the evident scam behind Stephen Woodworth's private member's bill. She thinks this represents a lack of commitment to "free speech" on the part of women's groups.
She's got it exactly backwards. The right to free expression is a restriction on the power of government, not a shackle on the rights of citizens to disagree with the actions of elected leaders.
Whatever happened to good journalism?
On the other hand, there are N(N-1)/2 clinks to accomplish, so you will need some parallelism to do it all in linear time.
Here's how to do it. Let's say that the number of guests N is a power of 2, say 2n. The solution is easily modified for the general case.
Number the guests from 1 to 2n. In round 1, all the guests numbered 1 to 2n - 1 get up, and walk clockwise around the table in synch with each other, clinking with each seated guest (numbered 2n - 1 + 1 through 2n) as they pass them. Having completed a circuit of the table, they now sit down. This round costs N time.
It remains for all the guests numbered 1 to 2n - 1 to clink with each other, and all guests numbered 2n - 1 + 1 to 2n to clink with each other. This is done in the same way as before within each group, except now the guests don't make a full cycle of the table; they just go to the last guest in their group they need to clink with, and then in synch with the others, return back the way the came. The second round costs 2N/2 = N time.
In each subsequent round, the same thing is done, halving the sizes of the groups, so the distance each group has to travel halves as well. Thus further rounds cost N/2, then N/4, etc. So the total time elapsed is bounded by N + (N + N/2 + N/4 + ··· + 1) = 3N - 1.
Here's an example. Suppose there are 16 guests. In round 1, guests 1 through 8 get up, cycle around clinking with guests 9 through 16, who are seated. They make a full cycle of the table and sit down. Next, guests 1 through 4 get up and clink with seated 5 through 8; simultaneously 9 through 12 are up and clink with seated 13 through 16; they then return back they way the came. In round 3, guests 1 and 2 get up and clink with 3 and 4 and return; simultaneously 5 and 6 are clinking with 7 and 8; 9 and 10 are clinking with 11 and 12; 13 and 14 are clinking with 15 and 16. Finally, in the last round, each odd-numbered guest clinks with the person to the right. Here the total number of clinks is 8 · 8 + 2 · 4 · 4 + 4 · 2 · 2 + 8 · 1 · 1 = 120, which is (16 · 15)/2, as it should be.
I know that everybody's busy. I know that for many professors, class sizes are getting bigger and take more time. But I've had three papers out for refereeing now where two have no decisions after 10 months and 12 months, respectively, and the other -- a paper of only 6 pages -- got reports only after 6 months.
Editors should be more diligent about pursuing reports. In the journal I edit, if we don't get a report after 2 months, we send a reminder, and if we don't get any response after 3 months, we start looking for another referee. The result is that it is extremely rare that a paper takes longer than 6 months to get a decision. A year is unheard of.
Speaking of that 6-page paper, we had submitted it earlier to another journal -- I'll call it "Journal A". After 4 ½ months, we got two reports, one of which I excerpt below:
"This trivial observation is claimed to be the main result of the submitted paper..."
"Although the simple argument provided in the paper is wrong... it could be easily corrected."
"However, the "proof" given there does not even contain any correct idea, which could be used to prove this claim..."
"In conclusion, the paper does not contain any original results..."
This report went on to claim that one of our results was a simple consequence of a known theorem, and then proceeded to outline a wildly incorrect argument supporting this.
Needless to say, on this basis of this report, the paper was rejected, even though all the assertions about the proofs being incorrect or that the last result easily followed from known results, were wrong.
In fact, I think this is a good model of how not to write a report. If you, as a referee, claim that an argument is wrong, it is definitely your responsibility to be specific about what is wrong, not make vague assertions like those above. And you also need to be a little more modest! If something appears wrong in a paper, maybe it is wrong. Or maybe, just maybe, you have simply misunderstood it.
We then resubmitted our paper to "Journal B". After 6 months we got two reports, one of which I excerpt below:
"These results are very interesting and the proofs are correct..."
"I think the construction of the Thm 6 is really brilliant..."
The experts disagree, I guess.
Craig has claimed that "science" supports his view. Not so, according to a new video.
Who is surprised? Craig has misrepresented what other scholars say before. Craig is not really interested in the answer to the question; he just wants to accumulate evidence, no matter how tenuous, to support his religion.
This has got to be the strangest book I have ever read about the periodic table. Each chemical element is interpreted as a cartoon figure. (I think they're all male, but I'm not absolutely sure. Are there really no female elements?) The noble gases, for example, all have giant hairdos that the author calls an "Afro", but look closer to a shtreimel; the halogens, by contrast, are all "bald and bulbous like a halogen lamp". The elements of antiquity have long beards, and the man-made elements look like robots. A fold-out periodic table summarizes all 118 known elements with their cartoon interpretations.
The book begins with a discussion of elements found in everyday things and how this has changed through time. The next chapter explains the author's coding for the various properties of the elements (interpreted as hairstyle, clothing, obesity, etc.) The bulk of the book goes through each element and discusses their properties and applications.
Most of the facts presented are correct, but not always. For example, about neon lights in glass tubes it is claimed that "The first time this was done was in 1912 in Montmartre, Paris", but this is not quite correct. The property of emitting red light by electrical discharge was noted by the discoverers of neon, Travers and Ramsay in 1898, and commercialization started in the early 1900's. The lanthanides are described as "extremely rare", but this is not really the case. Cerium, for example, is more abundant in the earth's crust than copper, lithium, cobalt, and lead.
The author is also not always careful to distinguish between the pure element and its compounds. Hopefully no child will swallow aluminum foil upon reading that "It has protective properties when applied to stomach membranes".
This little (15 × 18 cm) book might possibly interest youngsters (ages 8-12), especially if they already have an interest in Japanese anime. But for older kids and adults, I think they'd be better served by Emsley's Nature's Building Blocks or Stwertka's A Guide to the Elements.
Rating: two stars out of four.
As for me, I am currently working on Napoleon Coste, Waltz, Opus 51, No. 8 from the Royal Conservatory book 6.
Of course, the whole thing is a scam -- one that our local journalists couldn't or didn't see through.
Deep down, I don't believe Woodworth isn't interested at all in this question. I think that what he really wants to do is ban abortion (in consonance with his Catholic duty), and he's using this bill to try to achieve his goal through semantic games.
Suppose you're building a house. You dig the foundation. Is it a house yet? You pour the concrete. Is it a house yet? You start framing the house. Is it a house yet? You put in the window frames. Is it a house yet?
When does it become a house?
Some people might say it is a house as soon as you start building it. Others might say it is a house when it is ready to move in. There's no correct answer here, because the word "house" covers a lot of ground -- think of "abandoned house", "ruined house", "half-built house", "reconstructed house", and so forth.
Any line that you draw is arbitrary.
Of course, for legal reasons, sometimes we have to draw these arbitrary lines. Why should a 19-year-old be able to drink in Ontario, but not someone who is aged 18 years 364 days? This distinction makes no sense at all; it's purely an artificial legal construct that represents a guess about responsibility and maturity.
Arguments about DNA miss the point, too. It's not about whether the fetus has human DNA, because it clearly does. The argument is all about at what stage the fetus becomes a "person" (another ill-defined word!) that has the rights we expect people to have in a free society. And it's about how long those rights can be subservient to the rights of the woman in whose body the fetus is growing.
Viewed in this way, deciding whether a child is "a human being before the moment of complete birth" is just a political game. I don't expect much different from politicians, but I did expect more from Woodworth -- I had much more respect for him before this.
If he were sincere, he would answer my question, "What penalty would be appropriate for a woman who has an abortion?" He refuses to answer, and our local journalists are too cowardly to ask.
I'm happy to see that the bill went down to defeat, 203 to 91. But the main thing is to elect someone else to Parliament next time around.
For anyone with a brain, Wainio's carefully-documented examples of what appears to be Wente's serial plagiarism would have required, at the very least, a serious investigation at the Globe and Mail. Instead, Wainio was ignored or insulted.
Not any more.
The CBC -- displaying the journalistic integrity apparently lacking at the Globe and Mail -- has dropped Wente from their media panel.
Will there be further repercussions for Wente? Personally, I think the examples Wainio has assembled amount to a good case for firing Wente. She wouldn't be missed.
Meanwhile, Wainio is shunning the publicity. She deserves an honorary degree, at the very least, for having the courage to persevere in face of the shameless silence of most Canadian media. Or maybe even the Order of Canada.
Jerry Coyne reports that Maarten Boudry, philosopher at Ghent University in Belgium, succeeded in getting a fake theological/philosophical abstract accepted at two theology conferences. Both accepted it, and Reformational Philosophy put it in the proceedings (look under the pseudonym "Robert A. Maundy").
For those of us who have suspected for quite a while that there is something seriously wrong with some parts of modern academic philosophy (where, for example, Alvin Plantinga is "respected" and his EAAN gets serious treatment instead of laughter), this is some small vindication, although perhaps not proof.
Good reports should
Here is an example of a really bad report:
This paper is of absolutely no interest. I showed it to my colleague, Professor X, and she agrees. I recommend rejection.
A good referee report should be useful to the author. This report doesn't tell the author anything that he/she can use to improve the paper. Is it bad because the problem addressed is too trivial? Or because the results are already known? What is an author expected to do after receiving a report like this? Commit suicide?
Here's another example of a bad report:
Tiling problems have been studied for many years. They are of great interest in combinatorics and logic. This paper is a good contribution to the subject, and I recommend acceptance.
A good referee report should be useful to the editor, too. This report doesn't tell the editor anything useful! Are the results really deep and novel? Or is it just another in a series of similar small results? Not only that, a report like this suggests strongly that the referee didn't really read the paper with care, and just skimmed the paper in a few minutes. Are there really no papers that the author missed citing? Are all the equations really correct in all respects? Is there nothing that could be improved?
Any bright high school student can see the flaws in a few minutes. In this way, it functions as a sort of intelligence test for the philosophically inclined. The fact that some philosophers actually took the argument seriously and a few collaborated on a volume entitled Naturalism Defeated? illustrates the sad state of modern philosophy. It's the philosophical equivalent of taking a bogus proof that 2 = 1 and writing an entire book explaining why it is wrong. Yes, you can do it, but why bother?
So guess who accepts it and thinks it is "obviously valid"? Why, that paragon of ignorance and arrogance, Michael Egnor.
It's not surprising, since commenters at his site have tried over and over again to explain to Egnor what the theory of evolution says, but he just can't get it.