30 September 2010

University of Texas shootings

A couple of days ago, someone  in the University of Texas at Austin started shooting with an AK-47 assault rifle. He finally shot himself to death. The story is here and here.

As you can see in the pretty image above, the campus was searched by police. Nobody was hurt except the gunman who happened to be an actuarial maths student.

It's not the first, nor the last, time that things like that happen in US campuses. I have first-hand experience, having worked at UT Austin for many years. Back in the 90's, I had a colleague, the infamous Gary Wise,

who used to threaten me and others ("I'll shoot you with my gun"). Wise was a probabilist of sorts, a peculiar guy whose goal in life was to destroy other people's work. He even wrote a book, a bad book, which was published by Oxford University Press.

The university of Texas didn't care about Wise's threats and didn't take our reports seriously. For many years, despite our complaints that Wise used to harass students and faculty alike, Wise was allowed to teach and harass. He was mentally disturbed. I had complained to the university that this person may actually have guns and that he was able to come and start shooting. But police had told me that he had no guns registered in his name. This lasted until the day when he insulted the Dean of Engineering. They then made sure to fire him. Later, he was caught shooting the dean's car.

He was sent to jail. In his apartment, police found numerous assault weapons, undeclared, of course. it is relatively trivial, in Texas, to buy a gun, even without a license. All you have to do is go to the so-called "gun and knife shows". I remember those being advertised outside the university campus.

Recently, he has been charged for murder plots: he was planning to hire a gang member to use an AK-47 to kill the dean.

Gary Wise used to conduct Bible Studies and was therefore liked by the university. And he was favorite among students because he would give an exam and leave students alone to copy from one another.

I remember that once a university administrator (I think he was a vice-provost) told me that if I was afraid that my neighbor has a gun, then I should get a gun too. (Never mind that guns are not allowed on campus or, for that matter, that I never wanted to have a gun!)

Look at this video clip appearing on the ABC newsarticle about the gunman of 2 days ago:

Around the 1'50'', a police officer appears saying that students should be mentally prepared that, now and then, a gunman may show up on campus and advises them to be alert.

I wouldn't be surprised if further advice was given that people should carry guns in order to protect themselves. This is not uncommon in the US. Instead of trying to put a restriction on guns when fatalities happen, it is peculiar that they want exactly the opposite: they are convinced that gun fatalities can only be prevented by more guns.

Absurd. Very absurd.


  1. > ... it is peculiar that they want exactly the
    > opposite: they are convinced that gun fatalities
    > can only be prevented by more guns.
    > Absurd. Very absurd.

    Absurd, huh? Except for the fact that whenever guns are taken away, crime goes up. Criminals don't worry about getting guns, they get them, they always get them. It's the law abiding people that turn them in. Get your data straight. Idiot. You typical bleeding heart liberal.

    PS FYI, I had a class with Dr. Wise, he was truly tweaked.

  2. Anonymous: I admire your ability to keep calm and argue rationally and politely. Obviously, you can't, and this is why you hide behind anonymity.

    I agree with you that when guns are taken way, crime goes up, precisely for the reason you mentioned.

    The answer to guns, in a civilized society, is to ban them altogether. Guns are especially dangerous in the hands of religious people, and there are plenty of them in the U.S. People who believe in supernatural things (gods, etc.) are irrational and have no way to control themselves. Guns, in their hands, are extremely dangerous.

    It took millions of years for us to evolve into our species. We don't need guns or wars to extinguish ourselves from this planet. We need peace in order to feel safe and happy. And peace is not imposed by guns. It is, really, quite straightforward.

    I also agree with you on another point. Gary Wise was mentally sick, and this is why he could not teach. He should have been retired from his job gracefully, rather than led to the verge and put to prison. I feel sorry for him.



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