23 May 2008

A funny job posting

Allegedly, around 1990, the Southeast Missouri State Universiry, posted an announcement for a faculty position in philosophy, which is extremely funny (and sincere).

Some excerpts:

We are more interested in [...] cansidates with real teaching experience than in newly minted PhD's who might have unrealistic expectations for academic growth at an institution such as ours.

Our students tend to be poorly prepared [...], intellectually passive, interested primarily in partying, and culturally provincial [...]

[Our] academic enviroment is distinctly non-intellectual [...]

What an honest advertisement! I know many departments who are just like that. But would they ever dare to advertise a job thus?

20 May 2008

Origami Pentagon, ctd.

Actually, I know one quick and dirty method (which my father had told me once): take a strip of paper of constant width w and tie a knot, as in the figure. Flatten the knot carefully so that it leaves no gaps--it should all fit nicely together. The result is a regular pentagon of edge length w.

Origami Pentagon

A regular dodecahedron has faces which are regular pentagons. Looking around for a good method to construct pentagons by paper folding I came across one which seemed nice. Unfortunately, the method is not exact (as often purported to be) but only approximate. The approximation is good, but, if on top of the mathematical error one adds the physical one, the resulting pentagon is often visibly non-canonical.

The approximate method can be described as follows:

Start with a square. Let A, B be the middle points of two adjacent sides and C the vertex farthest away from these two points. Let M be the middle of the segment BC. Consider the shaded rectangle whose diagonal is MC and rotate it 90 degrees counterclockwise so C goes to C1. Pick the point K so that KC1:KM = 1:3. The "pentagon" has vertices A, B, C, K and the symmetric of K.

To see that it's not a regular pentagon, let the side of the original square have length 8u where u is the square root of 2 (for no good reason other than that I wanted to end up with integers). Then, using the Pythagorean theorem several times, we can see that AB equals sqrt(256)=16, but BK equals sqrt(250) which equals 15.81... (Pretty good approximation.) Notice that MK passes through the middle of BC and is perpendicular to it, so BK equals CK. By symmetry, 4 of the 5 sides of the pentagon have length 15.81... and only one has length 16.

Does anyone know an exact (and simple...) origami method for constructing regular pentagons?

Modern miracles

People think that miracles do not happen in our days. Wrong! Here is some multi-faith proof:

From left to right:
- Cactus displays Allah in arabic.
- The image of Virgin Mary on a toast.
- Statue of Lord Ganesha consumes milk.

19 May 2008

Can you believe that?

I've often heard that football fans refer to their favourite team in religious terms. This is a kind of metaphor. Or is it not?

Apparently not. I'm not a sociologist but I'm almost convinced that the type of faith certain people have towards, say, their favourite sports team or political party is very similar (biologically?) to a religious faith.

In Argentina, football fans have taken a step closer towards establishing a firm link between sports faith and religious faith. They established the Church of Maradona-God's Hand or Iglesia Maradoniana-la Mano de Dios, that reveres the football player Diego Maradona. One of its founders, Alejandro Verón, says: “I have a rational religion and that’s the Roman-catholic church, and I have a religion passed on my heart, passion, and that’s Diego Maradona."

(Why, exactly, the catholic church constitutes a rational religion requires closer examination...)

--- --- ---

It may be argued that reverence is not towards football but towards a specific person. So it behooves us to ask whether we can find another example of religious faith towards a living person. We don't have to go too far. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (the Queen's husband), is the God of the Vanuatu people in South Pacific.

Prince Philip is apparently well aware that he serves as God, so he makes sure that, from time to time, his photographs are shipped over to the Vanuatu people.

Any comments?

18 May 2008

Quantum mechanical ... healing!

The misuse of science for achieving one's goal has been always been practiced by many. However, nowadays, anybody can get instant information on any scientific subject, just by googling or wikipeding a term they've heard.

And some people make real money from bogus science...

I'm especially amused by the "use" of Quantum Mechanics: it appears to have entered the realm of psychotherapy. Here are a couple of examples:

First, there is some Sandra Anne Taylor, who has published a book called "Quantum Success". In it, she claims that

Through quantum physics, we know that reality isn’t separate from the observation of it, and the same is true for our own lives. What we experience in the real world can’t be separated from our perception of it. In fact, the study of biomechanics reveals that the brain isn’t even capable of distinguishing the difference between reality and memory.....

When people understand the human application of quantum physics, they can see that their consciousness, energy, and intention carry great power in the consequences of their lives. But when it comes to success, most people want to know, “What’s love got to do with it?”

She explains, however, that:

... The Law of Magnetism. Love is the single most magnetic energy that you can project.

Sandra Anne Taylor has, obviously, no understanding quantum physics or magnetism. She just makes money by selling her products to people who are fascinated by the mystique of grandiose scientific words.


Here's another example (I learned this from Shallit's blog):
Dr. Richard Bartlett D.C., N.D., makes money with his Matrix Energetics. He goes around and charges 500+ dollars for each "seminar" in which he makes participants attain the Quantum Field at their fingertips, make instant physical, observable changes, create quick observable changes with no waiting and no running energy...

Here is a most funny quote of Dr. Richard Bartlett D.C., N.D.:

"There’s something called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. What that says, essentially, is you cannot observe a system without entering into that observation and therefore changing it. Scientifically, this means that if you look at something and attempt to measure its velocity, you lose track of its actual location. If you try and track its location, you lose the ability to measure its velocity. You can never actually measure both at the same time; you can observe one and change the other."


But the use of science is not restricted to psychobogustherapy. It is also used for religious purposes. And not by people who have no understanding of science, but by scientists themselves. I really don't mind much about simpletons (?) like Taylor and Bartlett when they "use" quantum physics" for "healing" purposes: they just take advantage of sick people who are willing to pay money to be quantumphysicallyhealed. They just (ab)use the rules of free market. But it disturbes me greatly when I find out that a scientist uses science to prove bogus concepts. More about that in my next posting...


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