29 April 2010

What is mathematics (education) for?

Underwood Dudley, in a critical article in the latest Notices of the AMS, states it accurately:
What mathematics education is for is not for
jobs. It is to teach the race to reason. It does not,
heaven knows, always succeed, but it is the best
method that we have. It is not the only road to
the goal, but there is none better. Furthermore,
it is worth teaching. Were I given to hyperbole I
would say that mathematics is the most glorious
creation of the human intellect, but I am not given
to hyperbole so I will not say that. However, when I
am before a bar of judgment, heavenly or otherwise,
and asked to justify my life, I will draw myself up
proudly and say, “I was one of the stewards of
mathematics, and it came to no harm in my care.”
I will not say, “I helped people get jobs.”

27 April 2010

Pronunciation wiki!

I finally found a very useful pronunciation tool:

http://www.forvo.com/ is a website which contains pronunciation sound clips in many different languages. As of January 2009, Forvo.com is the largest pronunciation guide website on the internet. All sound clips are created by users.

I am interested in the pronunciation of Swedish, so I use: http://www.forvo.com/languages-pronunciations/sv/. Words (and phrases) are arranged by category, popularity or alphabetically.

Third-rate, second-rate and first-rate

A friend/colleague of mine has come up with the following wise saying:
The hallmark of a third-rate university is that they hire second-rate administrators with first-rate salary.
This came to my mind, recently, when I read this:

Hypocritical' principals get big pay rise

UNIVERSITY principals were accused of hypocrisy today after figures revealed they were given big pay increases while staff are facing redundancies.

The survey covering 2008-09 showed Professor Anton Muscatelli, the then principal of Heriot-Watt University, received the largest rise in Scotland – a 23.8 per cent increase from £168,000 in 2007-8 to £208,000 in 2008-9.

Professor Tim O'Shea at Edinburgh University took a 2.6 per cent cut but still received £223,000. Napier's Joan Stringer got a 7.9 per cent rise to £191,000. And Anthony Cohen at Queen Margaret had a 14 per cent rise to £171,000.

Mary Senior, of the University and College Union, said: "It is hypocritical to give themselves large rises while giving a ludicrous offer to the staff who do all the work."

A spokeswoman for Heriot-Watt said: "Principal Muscatelli joined on £160,000, a modest salary within the sector. By the start of 2008-9, he had implemented a visionary new strategic plan."

26 April 2010

The second law of thermodynamics is against the Bible

Several years ago, the members of the Christian Coalition of America, headed by a certain Ralph Reed, stated:
"We don't like the implications of [the second law of Theormodynamics], and we will not rest until it has been reversed in the courts."

"What do these scientists want us teaching our children? That the universe will continue to expand until it reaches eventual heat death? That's hardly an optimistic view of a world the Lord created for mankind. The American people are sending a strong message here: We don't like the implications of this law, and we will not rest until it has been reversed in the courts."
"Why can't disorder decrease over time instead of everything decaying? Is that too much to ask? This is our children's future we're talking about."

"My daughter's schoolbooks tell her that we live in a world ruled by disorder. That's a direct contradiction of what it says in the Bible, about how everything is going to get better, and we'll all live happily up in heaven after the End Times."

"This is America, and in this country, we have the God-given right to change laws we don't think are Christian. We are united in our demands that the second law of thermodynamics be repealed, and our voice will be heard no matter what. That's just a plain fact, and nothing anybody says can ever change it."
This is the kind of idiocy requires no further comments.
[Credit to a Nadder! ]

8 April 2010

Only in Texas

A picture is worth a thousand words (courtesy Yuval Peres).


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