30 September 2013

When the saints go marching in...

Breaking news! Pope John Paul II is to become a saint!

To become a saint in the Catholic Church, you must go through 4 steps, the last two being "beatification" and "canonization", each requiring that you perform a miracle. The church, taking a skeptical position, established a few centuries ago (1578 to be exact) the concept of "devil's advocate":

During the canonization process of the Catholic Church, the Promoter of the Faith (Latin: promotor fidei), popularly known as the Devil's advocate (Latin: advocatus diaboli), was a canon lawyer appointed by Church authorities to argue against the canonization of a candidate. It was this person’s job to take a skeptical view of the candidate's character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, and so on. The Devil's advocate opposed God's advocate (Latin: advocatus Dei; also known as the Promoter of the Cause), whose task was to make the argument in favor of canonization. This task is now performed by the Promoter of Justice (promotor iustitiae), who is in charge of examining how accurate is the inquiry on the saintliness of the candidate. (From Wikipedia.)
The concept was abolished in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. He then started a fast process of canonization of a huge number of individuals. Let us see how the abolishment of devil's advocate affected the number of saints from 1800 onwards. A "scientific approach" helps here.

The plot was created from a list of saints by Pope. We make the assumption that once someone becomes saint, he or she stays saint forever. Up to 2013, the growth is approximated by an exponential function. This is due to Pope John Paul II who canonized 483 saints. Previous popes, from 1800 up to Pope John Paul II had canonized 242 saints altogether. Pope Benedict XVI was more cautious; he canonized 45 saints. Pope Francis started the papacy with dynamism. In his first year, he canonized 802 saints en masse. We can therefore not approximate the last part of the growth by a classical function. Only a generalized function works. If you have trouble with the concept of a delta function, here is an application which will make you understand it well. Thanks to the current pope.

29 September 2013

Neo-nazis in Greece, their arrest

Talking about Nazis, most newspapers in the world (with the notable exception of the Swedish Svenska Dagbladet) yesterday announced the unprecedented arrest of the thugs of Golden Dawn. The neo-nazi party has now, by change of law, been classified as a criminal organization. Despite that it is represented in the Greek Parliament by 18 or so members, their head, Nikos Mihaloliakos was arrested, along with other 15 party members. They face hundreds of charges, including the recent killing of Pavlos Fyssas by one of the Golden Dawn executioners.

Golden Dawn has existed since 1980, but nobody took it seriously. Taking advantage of the financial catastrophe, Golden Dawn appealed--as is usual in such cases--to the "patriotism" of the Greeks, offered quick and dirty solutions to the immigration problem (beat them up or kill them), and other popular measures. It is thus that it received votes from those whose brains consist of haystack.

Here is a picture of the head of the group, Nikos Mihaloliakos, arrested yesterday:
He does not look very happy. But that's normal. He never does.

Look at my previous posting about neo-nazis in Sweden. Those in Greece are probably worse, the worst of the lot. However, many people still care and will look at them disapprovingly if they dare enter the bus with their version of the swastika:

Neo-nazis in Sweden: on the train to Stockholm

From time to time, there are groups of neo-Nazis in Sweden, even here in Uppsala, demonstrating against immigrants. According to wikipedia, there are several  of them.

Yesterday, my girlfriend, on the train to Stockholm, saw a group of those, men and women, who "looked scary". Shaved heads, swastika tatoos, leather jackets and boots, black outfit, radiating hatred from everywhere, even up the wazoo. That's the idea, of course, to bully by their mere presence. To intimidate. To make you feel unwanted. To threaten. To set themselves apart. To always be on the edge of violence.

They were abominable. And they knew it and enjoyed being so.

The amazing thing was the reaction of the train passengers.


Nobody even bothered to look. As if it was a normal thing. Just another bunch of crazy Swedes, dressed in one of those weird uniforms, we don't care, let them be, they are part of us. What? Could they even be thinking they were part of them? No reaction. None, whatsoever. Not a single look. Not a comment. Nothing. Nada.

I received a text message from her:
I feel threatened. It's horrible.
 Take a picture, I told her, let me see. I'll post it on my blog. Of course, she was more wise, and did not take one.

But the story doesn't end here. At some point, a woman enters wearing a hijab. She sat down and didn't speak to anyone. Immediately, heads turn towards her. There are no discussions, no comments, but people stare. They stare and stare and, perhaps, they disapprove. Of course, nobody will say anything. On the right side, the nazis. On the left side, the woman with the hijab. My girlfriend told me:
She was noticed. People look at her; they stare! But she poses no threat!
This is a first-hand incident and, by itself, of course, it proves nothing. But you know what I suspect and what everyone who had been on that train and was not part of the locals would have suspected: that nazis were as if they were part of the norm, whereas the hijabed woman was not.

It is not violence, fascism/nazism, which makes heads turn, but a Muslim woman with hijab, even though she poses no threat.

No wonder that so many people in Scandinavia supported Breivik, after his massacre, so much so that all online newspapers had to close down for a couple of days in order to remove the supporting comments and in order to start moderating all reader's comments. To this date, Breivik has lots of supporters.

24 September 2013

Ex-Pope Benedict XVI and Piergiorgio Odifreddi

The recent piece of news that Benedict XVI, a.k.a. Joseph Ratzinger, replied to a mathematician's (P. Odifreddi) letter is quite interesting. A response to Odifreddi's book, Caro Papa, ti scrivo (Dear Pope, I'm writing to you), the ex-Pope claims, among other things,
A. I never tried to cover up these things [peadophilia in the Catholic Church]
B. It's also not a motive for comfort to know that, according to sociological research, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than in other comparable professional categories.

Let us examine claim A.

In his book, The Case of the Pope, the distinguished human rights lawyer and judge Geoffrey Robertson, QC, writes (article 53, page 42):
In 2001, the Vatican actually congratulated Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux for refusing to inform police about a paedophile priest and for giving him parish work despite his confession of guilt. `I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration', wrote Cardinal Castrillon Hojos, with the personal approval of John Paul II and other senior cardinals, including the head of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger.
Cardinal  Ratzinger, as a head of CDF, before becoming pope, did know about child abusers and was personally responsible for not informing the police. Quite simply, the "honour" of the church was more important than turning criminals to the police. Instead, the ex-pope and other Church leaders, applied the principle that
even sex with minors becomes another sin to be forgiven
and, simply, moved the offending peadophiles to another parish where they were free to re-offend and have sex with more children. This thing was going on for decades in all countries where the Catholic Church has a strong presence.

The ex-pope's job of covering up was aided by the fact that
Catholics are indoctrinated from their childhood that priests take the place of Jesus Christ and are to be obeyed at all costs, and never questioned or criticized. (Thomas P. Doyle)

 Let us examine claim B.

The percentage of priests, the ex-Pope says, who are paedophiles, is not higher than other comparable professional categories. Is he crazy, or what? Why, priests are supposed to be pillars of morality, and, especially Catholic priests have given up any kind of sexual life in order to serve god. Therefore, it is totally unacceptable, for the Church Leader, to claim that priests are no better or worse than others. They should, by definition, be better. Well, we know they are not, and we know, as a matter of fact, that the Catholic Church had become a paradise for anyone who wanted to have sex with minors. Statistics, in this case, do not lie.
Sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church has been at a level considerably above that in any other organization, and that it has been covered up by many bishops with the support and the direction of the Vatican. (The Case of the Pope, p.6.)

So, the ex-Pope's reply is mere bullshit.

BBC claims that
it is thought to be the first time that Benedict has publicly rejected personal responsibility for covering up abuse.
To this date, the ex-Pope, by not replying directly, avoided responsibility. Now, he tells us he is not responsible. Evidence shows this is not the case.

And, finally, let us read another claim of the ex-Pope in his reply to Odifreddi:
C. In any event, one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism.
Yes, here, we must agree with him. Nastiness is not specific to Catholicism. It permeates any kind of religion, to various degrees, but all religions are more harmful than useful.

21 September 2013

(Some of the) funny aspects of the Academy of Athens, III

This is a followup of two previous postings. Here is part I, and here is part II.

The following article appeared two weeks ago in the daily Greek newspaper Kathimerini. Among other things, he criticizes the Academy of Athens for giving high salaries to its members.
Academy of Athens, Greek Parliament, Church
by D. Gousetis, diongus@otenet.gr, 4 Sept. 2013
Summary: Greek citizens are being taxed very heavily these days, and in an irrational manner. Despite the fact that the Greek State is presumably trying to save money, it allows the Academy of Athens to give salary to its members, at a time when no Academy of the western world does that.  This year, the Academy received, from the Greek State, twice the money it received two years ago and one-and-a-half times the amount it received last year. The Greek state also pays the administrative staff of the parliament, whose number is exceedingly large,  a lot of money. In addition, the Greek State allows the Church of Greece to have assets in real estate. estimated to be around 240 million Euro.
A response was published by the Secretary General of the Academy last week. He claims that the author of the article defames the Academy, is hostile to it, and is a liar.
Reply of the Academy of Athens
by V. Petrakos, Secretary General of the Academy of Athens, 13 Sept. 2013
Summary: The article of D. Gousetis contains inaccuracies originating either from a malicious informant or written by him in order to defame the Academy and produce hostile sentiment towards the institution. All 51 words used in his article are lies.
First: All of the 46 Academy's regular members do not receive salary but travel expenses. Since 2009, the sum given to them has been reduced by 37%  and is taxed at 20%. The Academy of Athens pays no salary to its members because academicians are not employees.
Second: It is incorrect that the public money received by the Academy was doubled since two years ago and increased by 1-and-a-half times since last year. The Academy received 11,080 Euro more than the amount last year and 109,364 Euro less than two years ago and 400,364 less than three years ago. If D. Gousetis knew elementary practical arithmetic he would have been able to explain how a decrease was interpreted as an increase.
In 2011, D. Gousetis had also written inaccuracies in your newspaper regarding the Academy of Athens. Those were corrected [by me] on 25 June 2011. Then, too, he had maintained that the Academicians pocketed an MP's fat salary. It appears that D. Gousetis' problem is his fat ignorance. If he wanted to find the truth, he would have asked for information. But he is uable to follow the scientific method which aims at the discovery of truth and not the defamation of an institution. This institution was first envisioned by the Greek fighters of 1824 [against the Turks], and was realized 100 years later. Now it is under attack by some Greek citizens because they do not understand either Science or Art or Literature.
I have been reading your newspaper since 1945. I never remember such defamation before. What would K. Tsatsos think if he read these things?
For the second time, I must work to correct the malicious inaccuracies published in your newspaper. I implore you, before publishing anything, to inform me first. For me it would be less troublesome to indicate any errors [before publication], rather than have to write a rebuttal in order to re-institute the prestige of your newspaper and avoid tarnishing its objectivity.
A further reply by the author of the original article was published the same day. In it, we read that the secretary of the Academy has, in his reply, not told the truth. This reply is accompanied by exact references to the budget.
by D. Gousetis, 13 Sept. 2013
Summary: I frankly didn't expect the Academy of Athens to behave like a Medieval Monk baptizing the fish as meat. So, salaries are now termed travel expenses. The Secretary General V. Petrakos avoids to mention the [exact] money given to the Academy by the State . However, on 25 June 2011 he admitted that Academicians were receiving reimbursement at the net amount of 1852.47 Euro [per month] for services and moving costs. Salaries were baptized ``reimbursements'' and ``travel expenses''.
How high could the travel expenses be? Regular Academicians are all Athens residents. Taking the bus or the train or the taxi does not cost as much as 1852.47 Euro [per month]. How come this is double the average pension in Greece (921 Euro [per month])? And why is this money given to Academicians without  any documentation? And how come travel expenses are being taxed? [It is salaries which are taxed, not travel expenses.]
The Secretary General of the Academy claims I do now know elementary practical arithmetic because I confuse decrease and increase. Let me refer to the budget of the fiscal year 2013, page 336, code 610, titled ``Academy of Athens and its services''. In it, we read that, in 2011, the amount of 5,996,849 Euro was paid to Academicians. In 2012, the amount was 7,953,000. And in 2013 the estimated amount is 12,053,000 Euro. If, as Mr. Petrakos writes, the money is decreased, I ask him to enlighten us: where does the rest of the money go? Which ``services'' depend on this money? Why is the money given to the Academy being increased when the money given to universities and research centers is being reduced?
Finally, I strongly believe that the prestige of an institution is not being protected by someone who pushes all wrong-doings under the rug in order to present a virtual reality, but by someone who highlights the wrong-doings in order that they be corrected. I estimate that K. Tsatsos would agree with me and would not publish Mr. Petrakos' letter against my article. My article was targeting the lack of responsibility of the Greek government which wastes money at a time when citizens are kneeling from their financial burdens.
Main Question: Who is telling the truth? The Secretary General of the Academy who gives no references, no exact sums, but only appeals to the Greek sentiment using pompous words like ``what would the Greek fighters against the Turks think if they saw this defamatory article of D. Gousetis", or the reply of D. Gousetis who accompanies his claims by exact references to the budget?

Conclusion: Assuming that D. Gousetis' references to the budget and other financial information are correct, the only way for D. Gousetis and the Secretary General to both be right is that the information in the financial documents provided by the Greek State is incorrect. That would NOT be a surprise, given that the Greek State has faked budgets before. But I suspect that this time the money stated in the references of D. Gousetis is correct. The ball is now on the Secretary General to prove that the sources mentioned by D. Gousetis are lying. If so, he will have to prove that the Greek government is lying.

Question 2: Why has the Academy of Athens not withdrawn the book published by the Academician N. Artemiadis, a book which was a blatant plagiarism, when every bookstore, and the publishing house of its English translation have all withdrawn it?

18 September 2013

A glimpse at the irrationality of the ex-archbishop of Greece

In the pre-blog era, I used to maintain a number of interesting facts, related to lack of logic and rationality, on my university web pages. That was a time when blogs were not so wide-spread and when I, erroneously thought, that every academic, in a scientific field, was rational. (I was mistaken. Irrationality and lack of logic exists in universities, even amongst science people.) I will transfer some of them to this blog.

The ex-archbishop of Greece, His Beatitude, Christodoulos, was known for often maintaining stupid things. Below is one of them, captured by a video. The background of the story is this: at the time (2004), he had written a book titled "Proselyte Greeks: The transition from antiquity to Christianity". In it, he maintained that the transition to Christianity was a smooth one. The irrationality of his arguments was captured in the video clip below, in which he states:
"...The [early] Christians respected the faith and religion of their ancestors and sanctified their temples which were dedicated to idolatric deites, they sanctified them by using them as Churches or by using their materials in order to build Christian Churches."

Here is a short bio of him:

His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, Christodoulos Paraskevaides, was born in Xanthi in 1939. He completed his studies in the Law School (1962) and the School of Theology (1967). While a student (1961) he was ordained deacon and priest (1965). He served as a preacher, senior spiritual father (Church of Assumption [sic] of Virgin Mary) and as a Secretary of the Holy Synod. He obtained a doctorate in Theology, has degrees in French and English, and also speaks German and Italian. He is the author of many scientific [sic] and constructive books. He became Bishop of Demetrias (1974) and was Archbishop of Athens and all Greece (1998-2008).

And an amusing fact from his life:

Greece had a seven-year military dictatorship (the `junta', 1967-1974). Human rights violations were, of course, a commonplace back then, occurring on a daily basis. Christodoulos was a priest during that period. Nevertheless, he stated he was completely unaware of anything going wrong then. He had no idea of human rights abuses because `he was busy studying'. Despite his being busy studying and not being aware of any abuses, he used to accompany the dictators in public, as the following images show.


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