Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oath to Queen Upheld Even Though It Violates Free Speech

Bad news for those who want to become Canadian citizens but can't bring themselves to swear an oath to support "the Queen, her heirs and successors": a suit to end this silly practice has failed in a ruling by Justice Edward Morgan.

Morgan found the practice does violate free-speech rights, but is a "reasonable limit on the right of expression".

Despite the ruling, it's time to end the requirement. It could be replaced by an oath to defend Canada and uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Someday Canada will grow up and ditch the monarchy, but it looks like it's not going to be soon.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"By the Usual Compactness Argument"

It's a sad truth, but the mathematics research literature is very tough going for beginners. By "beginners" I mean bright high-school students, or university students, or beginning graduate students, or even professional mathematicians who are trained in an area different from the article he/she is trying to read.

As a high-school student, I used to go to the mathematics library at the University of Pennsylvania to look up and try to read articles articles in number theory. Usually I couldn't understand them at a first reading, so I'd photocopy them and take them home to puzzle over. I remember being completely flummoxed by a paper on Bell numbers that used the "umbral calculus"; I just didn't understand that you were supposed to move the exponents down as indices. That is, in an equation like
B4 = (B + 1)3
you were supposed to expand the right hand side, getting
B3 + 3B2 + 3B1 + 1
and then magically change this to
B3 + 3B2 + 3B1 + 1 .

I had nobody to ask about stuff like that. Although my high-school teachers were great, they didn't know about the umbral calculus.

Things like this permeate the mathematical literature. Take compactness, for example. Compactness is a marvelous tool that lets you deduce -- usually in a non-constructive fashion -- the existence of objects (particularly infinite ones) from the existence of finite "approximations". Formally, compactness is the property that a collection of closed sets has a nonempty intersection if every finite subcollection has a nonempty intersection; alternatively, if every open cover has a finite subcover.

Now compactness is a topological property, so to use it, you really should say explicitly what the topological space is, and what the open and closed sets are. But mathematicians rarely, if ever, do that. In fact, they usually don't specify anything at all about the setting; they just say "by the usual compactness argument" and move on. That's great for experts, but not so great for beginners.

I really wonder who was the very first to take this particular lazy approach to mathematical exposition. So far, the earliest reference I found was in a 1953 article by John W. Green in the Pacific Journal of Mathematics 3 (2), 393-402. On page 400 he writes

By the usual compactness argument ([2, p.62]), there does exist a minimizing curve K.

Can anybody find an earlier occurrence of this exact phrase?

Silly Journal Title of the Month

It seems that every month there's a new silly journal title out, where by "silly" I mean ridiculous and/or ungrammatical.

This month's is the International Journal of Advance Innovations, Thoughts & Ideas.

It doesn't get much sillier than that. Then again, some of the titles of the articles they publish are silly in the same way:

  • "Structural Facilities Criteria for Anti-Terrorism (A Defensive Approach towards Safer Nation on Building Sciences)"
  • "Computer Forensic: An Evidence of various analytical tools for legal constitution"
  • "What is Data Warehouse?"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Creationists' Real Agenda Revealed

The fun thing about creationists (and I include ID proponents there) is that if you wait long enough, their real agenda gets revealed. Here's an example: the ID folks are fond of claiming they don't want to suppress the teaching of evolution; they just want the "evidence against evolution" taught as well. But Denyse O'Leary gives away the store! She admits that she wants to ban discussion of evolution in textbooks.

We all know why, of course. If people accept evolution, they'll be less likely to follow Jeebus.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Yet More Bizarre Conference Spam

I really don't understand it! If you don't speak English as a native language, and you're running an international conference, why don't you bother to check to see if the name of your conference is grammatically correct?

The 1st International Conference on Computer Science and Application
(ICOCSA 2014)
January 10 to 11, 2014, in Indiana, USA

Dear Author,

ICOCSA 2014 aims to provide a comprehensive global forum for experts and participants from academia to exchange ideas and present results of ongoing research in the most state-of-the-art areas of computer science and application. Click here to know more about ICOCSA 2014:

All accepted papers in English will be published by International Journal of Computer Science and Application (IJCSA) which has been indexed by ULRICHSWEB, ckan, WorldCat, Rice St, Yandex, AcademicKeys, dogpile, WIPO, Google Scholar, getCITED, JournalTOCs, etc.

Topics include but not limited to:
Computer science
Computational mathematics
Software and hardware manufacturers
Machine Intelligence
Diagnostic and Decision Supporting Systems
Data and Web Mining
Fuzzy Systems
Chaos Theory and Evolutionary Algorithms
Knowledge Extraction and Knowledge Management
Applications of Computer Science in Modeling
Visualization and Multimedia
Data and Information Systems
Internet and Distributed Computer Systems
Graphics and Imaging
Natural Language Processing
Computational Mathematics
Robotics and Micro-Robotics
Theoretical Informatics
Quantum Computing
Software Testing
Computer Vision
Digital Systems
Pervasive Computing
Computational Topology
Human-Computer Interaction
Signal Processing
Digital Forensics

Important Dates
Submission Deadline: October 24, 2013
Acceptance Notification Date: November 7, 2013
Conference Date: January 10 to 11, 2014

Online Submission System:

Call for Attendees
If you want to present your research result at conference, but do not wish to publish a paper, you can simply submit an abstract to our submission system.

Call for TPC Members
This conference is calling for TPC Members. If you wish to serve the conference as a TPC Member, please send an email to us with your CV attached.

Best regards,
ICOCSA 2014 Organizing Committee

In addition to the ungrammatical title, there is the ridiculously broad coverage of the subject matter, and the extremely vague conference location of "Indiana, USA".

Why would anyone submit to this conference?

Monday, September 02, 2013

They Offer Nothing But Lies, 3

Darwin was insane? And a sadist? Those are the nutty claims of Colorado "pastor" Kevin Swanson.

Swanson also thinks Mark Twain was possessed by demons.

People like Swanson offer nothing but lies, because their whole world view is based on lies.