Friday, July 31, 2009

My Gift to the People of Switzerland

I realized, while in Switzerland, that there is no German word for "brunch." So I gift to the wonderful people of Switzerland my coinage, fr├╝stagessen.

There will be statues of me at Swiss brunch places 100 years from now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Watch for It!

Remember the Wine Tasting Problem, and the associated sequence, which we can write




or for that matter


More on this sequence--including an ultrarapidly converging version of its polynomial transform--COMING SOON! Watch for it! Don't be left out!

Not Sure If They Really Mean It

No, I did not place the ashtray there myself.

In the Alps

Thursday, July 16, 2009

City Bird, Country Bird

Did you ever feed city birds by hand? They may be wary, but they know what's going on, and will come get the food as soon as they feel safe.

Did you ever try to feed country birds? They have no idea what you are doing. "Whoa, this guy is throwing junk at us!"

Taking food from another creature is not an "instinct" that birds have. They learn it.

A Trip Down Memory Lane...

to read the column that got me uninvited to testify before the US Senate Finance Committee.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One nice, one weird, one silly

Say you want to find the min or max of f(x,y) subject to a constraint that g(x,y)=0. Has it ever occurred to you that the values of x and y required are the same as the values of x and y required to find the min or max of g(x,y) subject to f(x,y)=0? I bet it hasn't. The requirement is entirely symmetrical (the "curly 'd'" notation is much prettier, but I can't be bothered to figure out how to do it here):

I can't get my intuition behind this: in boolean algebra,

(p or q) is equivalent to (p and not q or q). Yes, I know it's true, do the truth tables if you doubt me. It just seems wrong. P.S.:

(p and not q or not p and q) is not equivalent--that's exclusive or.

Let's for a moment write logical conjunction as product and disjunction as sum. Boolean algebras have the distributive rule p(q+r)=(pq+pr). Familiar, right? But boolean algebras also have this one: p+qr=(p+q)(p+r). Aside from the trivial p=0, when else is this true in arithmetic? The challenge is 7th grade level, but I like the answer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Promises, Promises

I was just watching a movie previe in which the following dialogue took place:

YOUNG GIRL: We're going to die!
NICHOLAS CAGE: I promise you, I will never, ever let that happen.

I've heard that sort of line often, and what's shocking is that it's always portrayed as a responsible parent doing the caring thing for his/her child! Yes, promising your child immortality -- it's the responsible thing to do.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is...

My friend laughed. "If morals are objectively real, where are they?"

"Hmm," I thought, "good point. So, the only things that are objectively real are those located in space and time."

"But, wait... the physical universe is not located in space and time, so..."

"The physical universe is not objectively real!"

Monday, July 06, 2009

Some Smart Critters


"By contrast, an ant nest or a beehive can behave as a united organism in its own right. In a beehive, the workers are happy to help the community, even to die, because the queen carries and passes on their genes."

Who knew ants were familiar with genetic theory?

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...