Class, Gaussians and Islam in the world…

Islam in the world I wrote about this earlier. Evidently many conflate criticism of Islam (and its practices) with a justification for discrimination against Muslims; those are very different things. A Pakistani woman wrote an open letter to explain why the points brought up by Bill Maher and Sam Harris are worthy ones:

And in yesterday’s issue of Pakistan Today, you’ll find her piece: “An open letter to Ben Affleck“. As a few quotes below will show, she goes after Affleck for trying, as she argues, to minimize the plight of Muslim women like her. Just a bit to give you the flavor:

Noble liberals like yourself always stand up for the misrepresented Muslims and stand against the Islamophobes, which is great but who stands in my corner and for the others who feel oppressed by the religion? Every time we raise our voices, one of us is killed or threatened. I am a blogger and illustrator, no threat to anyone, Ben, except for those afraid of words and drawings. I want the freedom to express myself without the very real fear that I might be killed for it. Is that too much to ask?

When I wrote a children’s book that carried a message of diversity and inclusivity for everyone, my life changed. My book, ‘My Chacha (uncle) is Gay’ has the innocent anti-homophobia message, ‘Love belongs to everyone’. This was not palatable to many of my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Since that project I have been declared an ‘enemy of God’ and deemed worthy of death. All because I want to help create a world where South Asian children too can have their stories told, so they too can know that love comes in all forms, and that that’s okay. My Muslim brothers and sisters were hit hard by this work because it addresses the issue of homophobia within our own community. It is not something they can pass off as ‘Western’ immorality. Just like they deny that any issues exist within the doctrine of Islam, many deny that homosexuality exists amongst good, ‘moral’ Muslims. Just like that, millions of people’s existence is denied. Please do not defend people who think this way, and let me tell you Ben, many ‘good’ Muslims do think this way.

What you did by screaming ‘racist!’ was shut down a conversation that many of us have been waiting to have. . . You became an instant hero, a defender of Islam.

Here is something to remember: the most radical right wing American Christians would be …flaming liberals if they were Muslims:

In your culture you have the luxury of calling such literalists “crazies”, like the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. In my culture, such values are upheld by more people than we realise. Many will try to deny it, but please hear me when I say that these are not fringe values. It is apparent in the lacking numbers of Muslims willing to speak out against the archaic Shariah law. The punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, etc, are tools of oppression. Why are they not addressed even by the peaceful folk who “aren’t fanatical, who just want to have some sandwiches and pray five times a day? Where are the Muslim protestors against blasphemy laws/apostasy? Where are the Muslims who take a stand against harsh interpretation of Shariah? These sandwich-eating peaceful folk do not defend those suffering in the name of Islam, Ben, and therein lies our problem.

Accuracy in media
Here is an example of Fox News reporting something that is blatantly false, but not issuing a correction. The claim was that Colorado law allowed for people to print out their own ballots; that is only true for Military personnel living overseas.

Epic Class Warfare rant
Marc Randazza is a famous First Amendment lawyer. He can’t stand some attitudes exhibited by some rich people, even though he is well off. Read his “candy woman” rant.

Ok, I have a few hang ups about Halloween Trick or Treaters but these tend to be “Larry Davidish”.

Mathematics and statistics Some statistical distributions appear over and over again. This one appears to be half Gaussian, half exponential.

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Fox News Lies Again, mathematics, political/social, politics/social, poverty, religion, rich, science, social/political, statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Math/Science humor

Screen shot 2014-10-11 at 8.14.19 PM

Screen shot 2014-10-11 at 8.12.38 PM

October 12, 2014 Posted by | humor, mathematics, physics | , , | Leave a comment

My take on Birthdays


Now, if there is some omnipotent deity that knows when you will die, this is correct. But as someone else points out: we die via a “bathtub curve” function.


That is, given our current age, say x , we have an “expected time left to live l(x) and as we age, the quantity x + l(x) increases, even though, after the risk of early death is over, l(x) is a decreasing function of x .

Of course, l(x) is changed if there is a war, famine, pestilence, etc.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | humor, mathematics, statistics | , , , | Leave a comment

Calculus gets dissed by Burl….

Note: if you haven’t followed Julie Larson’s comic strip Dinette Set, Burl is, well, not the world’s most intellectually minded character. Neither are Timmy’s grandparents. :-)


Ironically, I see such attitudes displayed by people…posting their thoughts on the internet via a computer or smart phone. The irony doesn’t even occur to them.

August 25, 2014 Posted by | humor, mathematics, social/political | , | Leave a comment

It isn’t “j” it is “i”!

If you get the comment/joke at 30:30 to 31:05, you are probably my kind of person. :-)

August 6, 2014 Posted by | education, humor, mathematics | , , , | Leave a comment

Throwback Thursday

This photo is both painful and joyful for me. This was taken in May, 1981, when I graduated from the Naval Academy. My mom was my current age at that time.


Of note: I am at the age when most of my peers have lost or are losing their parents. It is merely the “bathtub curve” in action:


(not to scale for humans). This curve is used in reliability engineering. When a piece of equipment is put in place, there are some “early failures” (e. g. defective components) and as time goes on, there comes a point when the equipment fails due to wear and tear on the various components. And for humans, it looks a bit like (this is the U. K.):

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This lists the “likelihood of dying” by age and sex. (From here)

Note: if this looks linear past the local minimum, look at the scale on left. It is a log scale, hence the linear appearance. It really is a bathtub curve.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | family, mathematics, science | , , | Leave a comment

The National Review “disses” Differential Equations

(hat tip: Vox)

The National Review excerpt:

[...]One part insecure hipsterism, one part unwarranted condescension, the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations and (b) the unlovely tendency to presume themselves to be smarter than everybody else in the world. Prominent examples include [...]

(emphasis mine).

Oh noes! I love differential equations! :-)

Yeah, I am just having fun with the quote; what really sticks in the craw of people like this is that many of us reject the idea that humans are the focal point of some deity and claim that “supernatural” explanations are really no explanation at all. :-)

Keep in mind that the National Review is supposed to be their “intellectual” magazine; in fact, it probably ranks alongside Salon.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | mathematics, media, republicans, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Politics: emotional issues robs us of abstract reasoning ability…

Good Vox article here. Moral (for me): mathematical and statistical reasoning really disciplines our thinking, BUT does not convince non-technical people.

This is one reason discussing issues with people outside of math, science and engineering departments is so difficult for me.

July 29, 2014 Posted by | mathematics, politics, politics/social, social/political, statistics | | Leave a comment

Scientists figure out a bit about a toad’s brain (observation, hypothesis, experiment, model, predction)

First a bonus: Jerry Coyne’s website has a post about mayfly emergence showing up on radar!

Toad Brain Activity
A friend alerted me to this post, which is about how a toad reacts to stimuli which mimics prey in the wild. There was a bit of a “ha, ha, watch the stupid toad get “owned”” but the videos are quite interesting and illuminate how science works.

First, there is the observation (toad hunting a worm).


(photo: Heidi Carpenter)

Then some conjectures are made: “what type of stimuli elicits a “hunt” response”?
Then there is an series of “experiment followed by a refined conjecture”; here we see what “looks like” prey to the toad and what doesn’t, and what sort of response does the toad make? Then we look at the signals in the toad’s brain.

It turns out that there are a couple of receptors involved: one if the “predator” sensor is activated, it sends a signal which cancels the “hunt maneuver” response. How is this verified: one can disconnect the “canceling signal” pathway.

Then the whole lot is modeled by a neural network which elicits the predicted response. Yes, there is some mathematics that underlies this, which includes signal theory, neural networks, probability and possibly fuzzy set theory as the “predator/prey” sets appear to be fuzzy.

The videos total 30 minutes but are worth watching.

July 22, 2014 Posted by | frogs, mathematics, science, technology | , , , | Leave a comment

How even elementary math tricks our brain…

This simple example shows how a political campaign (or an advertising team) can use our intuitions to trick us, while remaining completely factual.

Suppose we ship 100 pounds of watermelons. At the start, each watermelon is 99 percent water (by weight).
The shipment arrives, and upon arrival, we find that some of the water has evaporated. Each watermelon is 98 percent water. There is no other change.

How much did the shipment weigh upon arrival?

Now our intuitions don’t handle things like percentages very well. Seriously.

So, what is the answer?

Start: the watermelons weigh 100 pounds: 99 pounds water, 1 pound not-water.
Finish: the 1 pound of “not water” is the same and comprises 2 percent of the arrival weight (arrival: 98 percent water).
So the finishing weight is: \frac{1}{.02} = 50 pounds.

Yes, going from 99 percent water to 98 percent water involves a loss of 50 pounds?

Don’t believe me?

99 pounds water + 1 pound not water = 100 pounds.
49 pounds water + 1 pound not water = 50 pounds, and \frac{49}{50} = .98 which is 98 percent.

Imagine how this could be used in a political ad.

(Here I describe where I got the answer from; no I did not give the answer on this blog as that blog’s audience should have no difficulty solving this problem).

July 15, 2014 Posted by | mathematics, social/political | | Leave a comment


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