20 September 2011

Official driving licence photo

(Thanks Lisa for pointing this out. Please feel free to comment.)

A European driving licence photograph is subject to strict regulations. One of them states that headgear is only allowed for confessional reasons, i.e. if it is part of the driver's religion.

Mr Niko Alm applied for licence three years ago demanding that he wear a pasta strainer on his head. He claimed it was part of his religion, pastafarianism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And he managed to obtain his licence with the photo he needed:

This is a very good practical application of rationality. Indeed, there is absolutely no commonly agreed definition of what a religion is. Informally, something is classified as religion if it has been around for a while, if it has lots of devotees, if it does not go against the political status quo, etc. But none of these things is well-defined, nor has it ever been legalized. So, it is perfectly logical for someone to start a religion.

By acting as Mr Alm, eventually, will force society to properly define "religion". Or try to. And then there will be chaos, for there is no definition that fits all, neither one that will encompass religions to be.

We need examples, and counterexamples, in order to test a theory. Despite the efforts of Tony Blair to unify religions, this cannot happen. For sure, there will be one or more religions left out.

Let us start thinking, then, what on Earth constitutes a religion? Why is religion A better than B?--oops, I'm not allowed to say so! So why are all religions equal?--oops, but then I may have to include loonies like these, who get together and "speak in tongues".

So, congratulations to Mr Alm, for posing the right question. In his words,
"I am ridiculing the authorities," he said. "If anybody is offended there is nothing I can do, but I am offended too, if logic and reason is offended."

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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