10 May 2015

Japanese cinema

When I lived in other places, e.g., in Edinburgh, I used to go to the cinema regularly, actually mostly to the legendary Filmhouse and to the Cameo. Unfortunately, around here (Uppsala, Sweden) most cinemas, besides being very expensive, just show very low quality films. This restriction forced me to seek alternative venues. And so I discovered Japanese cinema. For long time now, I've been watching free Japanese films of bygone times, those films that are, of course, available for free on the Internet. And so I compiled a list which I would like to share:

My Japanese cinema list

In it, one can find films by Kenji Mizoguchi (such as Ugetsu Monogatari, Sansho the Bailiff and the Crucified Lovers, all highly recommended), by Hiroshi Simizu (such as Mr Thank You, a real must) and by Yasujiro Ozu (such as Late Spring, Ohayo [Good Morning], which one should watch at least twice). Unfortunately, Tokyo Story, one of the greatest films ever made, is not available with English subtitles.

Japan has a long history in film, starting from 1897. Most people know Akira Kurosawa and, more recently, Takeshi Kitano, but the films in my list go back to the roots of the Japanese cinema. Perhaps the reason that Japan has had such a stunning cinematic production can be traced to its long tradition in theatre that produced the genres of Gagaku, Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki. But I can't say for sure because I'm neither an expert nor I have much knowledge about the these genres other than a cursory one. Nevertheless, last year, I did manage to visit the great exhibition of 19th-century Japanese Kabuki theatre woodblock prints at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

7 May 2015

John Lennox at Waterloo

John Lennox strikes again! This time at the University of Waterloo. I'm reblogging comments of Jeff Shallit who, having had the patience to attend his lectures, only found out that they are void of content. And I found out that Lennox keeps saying the same thing, month after month, year after year, supporting irrational beliefs and preaching to those who are impressed by the fact that he has a PhD and that he is a mathematician. (Wow!)

It's Pascal Lecture Time Again -- John Lennox at Waterloo 

John Lennox - Talk #1: "Do Science and God Mix?" 

John Lennox Hoist by His Own Petard

John Lennox Talk #2: Miracles 

6 May 2015

Japanese monkeys

From BBC news:
A Japanese zoo has apologised after naming a baby monkey Charlotte in honour of the newborn British princess, it's reported.
The Takasakiyama Zoo, in southern Japan, was inundated with complaints after announcing the female macaque monkey's name on Wednesday, the Kyodo news agency reports. The zoo says the name was chosen after a public vote, a tradition for their first newborn macaque
monkey each year. Charlotte received the most votes, although it wasn't exactly a runaway winner, with 59 out of 853 people choosing it.
But other members of the public felt that it was disrespectful to the British royal family to name a monkey after a princess. The zoo faced a "barrage" of complaints from people wanting them to re-name the macaque, with some noting that the Japanese people might not be best pleased if a British monkey were named after one of their own royal family, Kyodo reports. The zoo has apologised in a statement on its website. It says it takes people's concerns seriously and is discussing a potential name change for the newborn animal.
Well, I just came back from Japan,  and did have encounters with some Japanese monkeys out in the wild, in Kamikochi. I didn't know that one of their relatives would be named in honour of a British princess and neither that this would be considered scandalous. The question is why? Why should a princess' name not be useable by a monkey? Is a princess better than a monkey? On what grounds? Just because she happened to be born in a so-to-speak royal family? This is one of the irrationalities/absurdities of humans, a mere remnant of eras when people thought of royals as representatives of their gods. In any case, I find the monkeys more attractive than the princess. To wit, take a look:

11 April 2015

The Armenian genocide

As I was driving on the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco, I saw the following
So I clicked on http://www.rememberanddemand.org/ and saw the announcement of a variety of events for April 2015, in commemoration of the genocide.
Between 1915 and 1923, over 1.5 million Christian Armenians were forcibly uprooted from their homeland and systematically slaughtered by the Ottoman Turkish government under the cover of World War I.
This mass murder is considered the first documented genocide of modern times and included crucifixions, torture of women and children, sexual slavery, mass executions, forced labor, enslavement of children and purposeful starvation.
To this day, the Turkish government denies the truth about the Armenian Genocide. It has criminalized discussion of it by its own citizens and built a powerful coalition of lobbyists who use political influence all over the world to prevent international recognition of this crime.
In 2015, Armenian Americans and the international community will unite to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and to honor its victims by demanding the proper recognition of this horrendous event.

More on this, to follow...

19 February 2015

Coulomb's law

About a year ago, I discovered a very interesting short video by Richard Feynman responding to the question of what happens when we hold two magnets next to one another. His answer was brilliant.

Recently, I came across a video from the 50s where a physicist is conducting experiments trying to explain electrostatics and, more precisely, Coulomb's force. What is very interesting is that he doesn't merely present facts, but also argues, from various points of view, trying to convince the listener that the force must depend on the distance r between two charges as a linear function of 1/r2 (and linearly on each charge). The argument, especially towards the end, is not dissimilar from that of a mathematician who is trying to explain Potential Theory and Laplace's equation. In the end (skip to 17'22'' if you wish), we realize, with a bit of thinking, that a lot of the things we see in the experiment are merely outcomes of geometry and the fact that we live in a 3 dimensional space (this is an experimental observation that works well!) where distances obey the Pythagorean theorem.

I found out that the physicist is Eric Rogers. The video was intended to be for secondary schools. These days, one can find students of electrical engineering who do not understand electrostatics, students of mathematics who do not understand what potential theory has to do with physics, and educators (they are called pedagogues--and, as I have explained, they form a modern type of plague) who insist that education is independent of the discipline. Not that there aren't universities that teach properly and students who understand a lot, but this species (those who strive to understand and, hence, to explain) is becoming rarer and rarer.


What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant