The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mathematics'
The next front in the culture war for America's resurgent Christian fundamentalist movement may be set theory. That's right; some fundies find the mathematical theory of sets right down there with critical thinking, mainstream paleontology and Ozzy Osbourne records:
"Unlike the "modern math" theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute....A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory."Why do the fundamentalists find set theory so objectionable? It seems to be not because of what it says (unlike, say, evolutionary biology) but because of the kinds of thought it may encourage; set theory, you see, with its paradoxes and its heretical notion of there being different kinds of infinity (i.e., the set of all real numbers and the set of all integers are both infinite, but the former is greater than the latter) could subtly seduce even the most rigorously home-schooled children into modernist habits of thinking, not based in absolute truths and rigid, God-given hierarchies but in ungodly paradoxes. And if there is more than one infinity and the the set of all statements is either incomplete or inconsistent, they may start to wonder what other statements they had accepted on divinely-ordained authority are incorrect, and before you know it, you have atheism, Red Communism and buggery on the Sabbath.
They see modernism as the opposing worldview to their own. They are all about tradition (or, at least, what they have decided is traditional). Modernism is a knee-jerk rejection of tradition in favor of the new. Obviously, they think a very specific sort of Christian God should be the center of everything and all parts of society, public and private. Modernists prefer ideas like secular humanism and think God is something you should be doing in private, on your own time. They believe strongly in the importance of power hierarchies and rules. Modernism smashes all of that and says, "Hey, just do your own thing. Nobody's ideas are any better or worse than anybody else's. There's no right and wrong. Go crazy, man!"
More importantly, they know that [modernists] are subtle, and use sneaky means to indoctrinate children and lure adults into accepting modernist values. So the art, the literature, the jazz—probably the Scandinavian furniture, too, though I never heard anyone mention that specifically—are all just traps. They're ways of getting us to reject to One True Path a little bit at a time. (I should note that, up to this point, I am basing my analysis on what I was taught in Baptist school. After this, I'm speculating, and attempting to connect the ideas I know are present in this subculture with set theory.)
Set theory, particularly the stuff about infinity, has a bit of that wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey flavor to it. It doesn't make sense on the level of "common sense". It's dealing with things that aren't standard, simple numbers. It makes links between nice, factual math and floppy, subjective philosophy. If you're raised in Christian fundamentalist culture, all of that—every last bit—absolutely reeks of modernism. It's easy to see how somebody at A Beka would look at set theory and conclude that it's really just modernist propaganda. To them, set theory is just a step on the road to godless atheism.And so, the red line in the culture war has now ambitiously been pushed back to the 19th century, with a view to rolling back the Enlightenment and bring back the certainties of the mediæval age, when humanity knew its place.
(via Boing Boing)
A Spanish mathematician has created a mathematical model of how marriages and relationships break down. Termed "sentimental dynamics", José-Manuel Rey's theory is based on the second law of thermodynamics, and posits an optimum amount of "energy" which needs to be fed into a relationship to sustain it:
The results of the mathematical analysis showed when both members of union are similar emotionally they have an “optimal effort policy,” which results in a happy, long-lasting relationship. The policy can break down if there is a tendency to reduce the effort because maintaining it causes discomfort, or because a lower degree of effort results in instability. Paradoxically, according to the second law model, a union everyone hopes will last forever is likely break up, a feature Rey calls the “failure paradox”.The paper may be found here. (Aside: note the use of the Unicode ♥ character in the equations; I wonder how common unusual Unicode symbols are in mathematical or scientific papers these days.)
There is a theory that the popularity of the Amen break (a sampled drum loop used extensively in hip-hop and drum & bass, among other musical genres) could be due to it embodying the Golden Ratio in its proportions, and thus sounding more rhythmically pleasing.
A computer scientist in Reading has solved the problem of how to divide by zero. Dr. James Anderson did this by defining a new type of value, named "nullity", which sits outside the conventional number line. The Nobel committee will, I imagine, be in touch shortly.
A psychology lecturer in Manchester has come up with the formula for the perfect bottom; it's (S+C) x (B+F)/T = V:
S is the overall shape or droopiness of the bottom, C represents how spherical the buttocks are, B measures muscular wobble or bounce, while F records the firmness. V is the hip to waist ratio, or symmetry of the bottom, and T measures the skin texture and presence of cellulite.
(via Boing Boing)
A tutor at Cardiff University has determined mathematically that the 24th of January (i.e., this coming Monday) is the most depressing day of the year:
The formula for the day of misery reads 1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA.
Where W is weather, D is debt - minus the money (d) due on January's pay day - and T is the time since Christmas.
Q is the period since the failure to quit a bad habit, M stands for general motivational levels and NA is the need to take action and do something about it.