26 July 2015

Grooming tribal monarchs

When institutions (states,  businesses,  etc.) need cash they forget their principles.  My French friends are upset at the recent decision of the state to forget the principle of equality of all citizens and close a beach in Vallauris for the pleasure of a tribal king and his entourage of 1000 people. They've even constructed a lift (=elevator) for the use of the monarch.
● Story in French here.
● Story in English here.
Sucking up to Arabs has been around for a while.  But, now,  financial circumstances will make the presence of oil money (and private beaches and elevators) welcome in tourist areas,  in businesses,  in education, and many other sectors.  And if women have to walk a meter behind men or not allowed to drive cars or stoned in case they do something "bad", well,  Europe will temporarily forget is principles because money, be it tribal or not, is above principles or laws.

P.S. 100 thousand people have complained in writing against this. But the income brought by the tribal king will be greater than 100 thousand euro.  So the complaints don't count.

8 July 2015

Tabloids in Sweden

One thing that upsets me in Sweden is the kind of "newspapers" around. The two most popular "newspapers" are called Expressen and Aftonbladet. Typically, they are the only ones that can be found in small shops. Why do I care? For two reasons. First and foremost is because the sight of them hurts my eyes. They are so awful looking that it causes me distress. Sometimes I feel like vomiting. Second because I can't imagine why would anyone look at this total nonsense. Aren't people offended? (Look at the 7 July 2015 issue: the front page announces that the American actor Cosby was involved in sex scandals. This isn't even Swedish news! Why would anyone care?) The situation is similar in the UK. The most horrible tabloid there is called the Sun. The difference is that small shops in the UK also carry the serious newspapers. But I live in Sweden. So what I have to face, each and every time I go to the supermarket or to the petrol station, is disgusting. Like this:

Front pages of the "newspaper" Expressen are a visual pollution and a source of disgust
Front pages of the "newspaper" Aftonbladet make my eyes hurt and my bowels move

18 June 2015

Citation nonsense

We're at the era of the Internet. So, for many, knowledge and research evaluation has been translated to counting citations: the more citations you have, the better you are. So they think.

But, of course, they're wrong. I won't insult anybody's intelligence by presenting obvious arguments that show how faulty the process above is. I leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Cui bono, however, one should ask. Well, again the answer is obvious.

But something worse is happening now. Publishers don't leave me alone. They *force* me to look at every instance a paper of mine is cited.
From: Elsevier CiteAlert [citealert@mail.elsevier.com]
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 5:48 PM
To: Takis Konstantopoulos
Subject: Dr. T. Konstantopoulos, your work has been cited.
Dear T. Konstantopoulos,
It is our pleasure to inform you that your publication has been cited in a journal published by Elsevier.
Through this unique service we hope we can offer you valuable information, and make you aware of publications in your research area.
Best regards,
The CiteAlert team
Damn Internet and email. I don't care to be reminded. I'll look it up myself if and when I need to. I don't need some robot telling me my cited papers. Cui bono, in this case? Well, obviously Elsevier. They want me to click at the paper citing my paper and then, in return cite their paper, etc. This is beneficial for the profits of Elsevier and they think that this is beneficial for me too. I don't care Elsevier. Leave me alone.

And, yes, I did try to unsubscribe, but it didn't work.

Lately, I published a paper in an Elsevier journal. I must have received 100 emails or so related to that paper: "Your paper is about to appear" "One week before the appearance of your paper." "Your paper appeared on out site." "Your paper is about to appear in the printed version." "Your paper appeared in the printed version, send us money  and we'll send you hard copies." And then: "Someone clicked and checked your paper" "Here are some new papers that are related to your work." And so on.

I don't want to be misunderstood: of course I'm interested for further research but not when a robot decides, on the basis of some stupid algorithm, that someone's work is close to mine. I want to talk to human beings, not to your spamming robots Elsevier!

16 June 2015

Ramadan in places where the sun does not set

Ramadan is a period, around this time of the year, when Muslims are supposed to fast during daylight and eat when the sun sets. (And fasting means eating nothing and drinking nothing, not even water or beer.) That's supposed to be a religious duty commanded by god. The issue is this however: In Uppsala, the sun hardly sets these days and further north it does not set at all.

So there is a problem. Clearly,  if they eat nothing at all they'll get sick or die. So they came up with new rules. See here and here:
Mohammed Kharaki, a spokesman for Sweden's Islamic Association, said the organisation had this week issued guidelines that said Muslims should fast between the times that the sun was last clearly seen to rise and fall - despite this concession, this could well amount to a 19-hour fast.
Sure, one would argue, they had to come up with something. But could they not come up with the obvious fact that there is a contradiction?

Clearly, the author of the "holy" books that tell people to fast during daylight and eat when it's dark did not know that there were places on the planet where the sun does not set. (For all I know, he could very well be under the impression that the Earth was flat.) The claim is that the author of these books is supposed to be god, who, by the way, is omniscient. So we have a contradiction.

So, instead of realizing that this contradiction leads to the obvious conclusion that the author of the books is not omniscient, they decided to change the rules.

But this is the nature of religion: regardless of the amount of evidence against its tenets, religion will not accept any contradictions. In fact, the larger the amount of contradictions religious folk are faced with, the stronger their belief. This, in my opinion, is the most fundamental aspect (perhaps the defining aspect) of religion.

The Uppsala mosque, picture taken from the Independent

15 June 2015

Vatican priest abuses children

Is this news, you'd ask. No, of course not. It is well-known that off a guy had a desire to molest children then all he had to do was to become a priest in the Catholic church. But, here we are again:

Vatican ex-envoy Wesolowski faces child sex abuse trial
Jozef Wesolowski is accused of sexually abusing children in the Dominican Republic from 2008 to 2013. He is under house arrest in the Vatican. The trial is to begin on 11 July. Wesolowski, 66, is also charged with possession of child pornography, dating from his return to Rome in 2013. Last year, the Pope compared the actions of those who commit such crimes to a "satanic mass".
What's the difference between a "satanic mass" and a "regular mass"? Well, in the former case everyone recognizes it as evil; but in the latter case, it takes several decades for the evil to come out.
The Vatican also accepted the resignations of an archbishop in the United States and his deputy following accusations that their archdiocese covered up the sexual abuse of children. They are Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
John Nienstedt said in a statement that his leadership had drawn attention away from the good works of the church but stressed he was leaving "with a clear conscience".
Bullshit, of course. The previous pope, Joseph Ratzinger, and the Vatican, and the whole establishment called Catholic church have been covering up, for decades, their pedophile priests. For them, it was more important to save face rather than face reality. When the shit hit the fan, they had to do something. And, very very reluctantly, they started the process of sending some of their holy priests to justice.

Read The Case of the Pope, by the distinguished human rights lawyer and judge Geoffrey Robertson to find out what real evil means.
Their resignation [of the US Catholic priests mentioned above] comes after prosecutors charged their archdiocese with "turning a blind eye" to repeated reports of inappropriate behaviour by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys.
Neither man was named in the indictment.
Prosecutors accuse the archdiocese of failing to respond to "numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct" by Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest currently serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys.
Five years for molesting two boys? What about  Joseph Ratzinger who knowingly supported and helped hide others who molested dozens and dozens of children? The usual reply is that he cannot be indicted because he was the head of a State.

Bullshit, again. According to international law, Vatican is not a state.


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