29 May 2011

Revised date for the end of the world

My third posting on this idiocy, but I can't help it. It IS funny:
Mr Harold Camping who predicted that the end of the world would take place on 21 May 2011, has now revised his opinion. He claims that the world DID end on 21 May 2011 (did you notice?) but that was a "spiritual" end:
“I was truly wondering what is going on. In my mind, I went back through all of the promises God has made, all of the proofs, all of the signs and everything was fitting perfectly, so what in the world happened? I really was praying and praying and praying, oh Lord, what happened?” 

 He continued by saying that the real end will be on 21 October 2011.

If he was the only idiot in the world claiming all that crap, nobody would raise an eybrow. The problem is that he has many followers. These morons, not only go around shouting, demonstrrating, and looking for attention, but also support Camping financially.  (In 2009, he reported $18.3 million in donations and assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks.) He was asked whether he would return the money to his followers. He replied thus:
"We’re not at the end. Why would we return it?" 
Indeed, indeed. The guy plans to return the money AFTER the end.

Why are there so many idiots? Why is there such a great stupidity in the world? Can it be explained scientifically? What makes one want to be a sheer moron? Camping could very well be smart: after all, he makes millions from his followers. But why are there followers in the first place? There are so many people in the world who cannot think independently but want a father-figure, someone to obey. This figure could be a businessman (like Camping), or a politician, or a king, or a god, etc.

I think that the major success of all totalitarian regimes lies not so much in the power of the dictators but in the sheer obedience of a large fraction of people. And when I say "totalitarian regime", I also speak metaphorically. I refer not only to a dictatorship, but also to religion, to an organization, to an  institution, etc.

There must be some kind of explanation for the need of people to submit themselves to mental or physical slavery and behave moronically. Some day we'll understand. And, perhaps, we can find a cure (for those who wish to be cured of their stupidity.)

24 May 2011

The world hasn't ended

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it appears that 21 May 2011 was not the end of the world.  The man who predicted the end now claims this:
I am very bewildered. I have no answers. I don't want to talk to any reporters today.
Reportedly, many people quit their jobs, left their families, and some gave away their money to the cause: Namely, getting out the word through caravans, billboards, and pamphlets that judgment was upon us.

21 May 2011

Today, 21 May 2011, is the end of the world

I mentioned this again last year. Brief review: Mr Harold Camping "proved", using "mathematics", that the world is scheduled to end today. Indeed (Camping claims), Jesus was crucified on 1 April 33, and, since then, there have passed 722500 days. But 722500=(5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17). And, according to Camping and the Bible, 5=Atonement,  10=Completeness and 17=Heaven. This argument allowed him to draw the conclusion that the world ends today.

So, hurry up and do your shopping before it's too late. I have to finish a presentation on Lévy processes, but I'm not too motivated.

As for the last picture, my readers will probably recall that Stephen Hawking is not always right. I had pointed out that Pierre Brémaud's scientific predictions differ from those of Hawking when it comes to serious matters, like aliens contacting humans.

16 May 2011

Think before you condemn

I found this brilliant article on "a Nadder!" about Afghanistan, based on a Foreign Policy photo essay. Most of us tend to think of Afghanistan as a county of bearded mullahs, religious fanatics. terrorists, uneducated people, etc. We also adopt a point of view that the present is always better than the past and so, if Afghanistan is the way it is now, imagine what it was 50 or 100 years ago. Probably people living in caves. But we are wrong. The following photo is from a biology class in a university in Afghanistan:

And this is from the Radio Kabul transmitter. The radio could be heard as far as South Africa.

Is this the image we have about this country? Certainly not. Look at the sources above for more details and more pictures. And, most of all, think and look around before you form an opinion based on what the media tell you or what the person down the road thinks. And think, also, how fragile the current system you live in may be. This is an advice for me too.

14 May 2011

The Pope is more influential than any scientist

"Like it or not, the Pope is more influential than any scientist", says the New Scientist (December 2010).

In an article about the Pope's tacit approval of condom use to prevent the spread of HIV, it is also mentioned that prominent scientists have urged the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences to endorse genetically modified (GM) crops.
The Catholic Church has yet to officially back GM. But if it does, it would be a welcome shift away from a gimlet-eyed obsession with sexual morality into areas that could genuinely improve the lives of billions. Like it or not, the Pope is more influential than any scientist. Supporters of GM should hope he sees the light.
 A quick search in New Scientist's archives shows how often scientists try to get the Pope's endorsement:
  • Three prominent US scientists have asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the Roman Catholic church's view on Darwinism.
  • Could it be that the Vatican is about to enter the age of enlightenment?  
  • Will the papacy ever come to terms with progress in reproductive science, or will the new pope follow in his predecessors footsteps?
  • The Catholic church's demonising of the technologies that facilitate test-tube babies is making it look out of touch and irrelevant.
The Pope's opinion matters for millions of people in the world. They would rather listen to him, a scientifically-illiterate individual, about all kinds of important things, rather than listen to scientists. Religion is interfering with so many important things in this world and this is a really sad state of affairs.


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