Ok, I am stuck on a math problem

I am trying to relearn basic knot theory; that is, I am trying to understand the Alexander Polynomial. The link I provided is to a term paper on the internet; it explains the various approaches to it.

Yes, I answered this question as part of my Ph. D. qualification examination back in 1987-1988. I’ve gotten substantially dumber since then.

The topic of this post: it came from a post on Dus7’s blog and on the Daily Kos. It dealt with the question: as far as religion and or spirituality, what “are” you?

Funny, I see myself as a hard core skeptic; I believe in absolutely nothing supernatural. So in the Daily Kos poll, when asked what I believe, I responded:

8. Does not exist and never did; and there is nothing supernatural, no spirit; the universe is completely natural and has no higher aspect.

Here are the results of the quiz:

What kind of God(s) do you believe in, if any? I believe that God(s)…
1. Exists, and still routinely, intervenes in earthly and human events.
7% 340 votes
2. Exists, and sometimes but rarely, still intervenes in earthly/human events.
5% 242 votes
3. Exists, and used to intervene in earthly/human events, but never does anymore.
0% 24 votes
4. Exists, got the universe going, but never intervened in earthly/human events.
2% 101 votes
5. Exists in some sense, but never intervened in even cosmic, nor earthly/human events.
1% 83 votes
6. Is a spiritual ideal, not an actual being.
7% 314 votes
7. Does not exist; but that there is something spiritual or super-natural; something beyond just physics, chemistry and biology; universe is not reducible to just math and science even in principle.
12% 522 votes
8. Does not exist and never did; and there is nothing supernatural, no spirit; the universe is completely natural and has no higher aspect.
36% 1539 votes
9. It is my firm belief that I really really do not know; that we cannot know (well thought out devout agnostic).
17% 728 votes
10. Something really not covered by any of the above.
8% 377 votes

| 4270 votes

I admit that I almost answered “6”, but I see “spiritual ideal” as a human construct; not of ONE human but humanity as a whole. Interestingly, I have lots of company at the Daily Kos, if not in the general community (i. e., US society) as a whole. However, I fit in well with many in the mathematics/scientific community.

So anyway, I was lead to Dus 7’s blog (I use google reader to keep up with my favorite personal blogs) and she provided a nice link to the spiritual quiz. I answered the questions as well as I could, though there were some questions that had no answer that I could agree with. Example: when it comes to human disasters and suffering, I see no “God’s plan” or no proof in “the non-existence of God”; these disasters and suffering are merely the products of living, period. Spiritual stuff can help us in these times though.

Nevertheless I took the quiz and was surprised at what came up:

Quiz: What’s Your Spiritual Type?

You scored 41, on a scale of 25 to 100. Here’s how to interpret your score:
25 – 29
Hardcore Skeptic — but interested or you wouldn’t be here!
30 – 39
Spiritual Dabbler — Open to spiritual matters but far from impressed
40 – 49
Active Spiritual Seeker – Spiritual but turned off by organized religion
50 – 59
Spiritual Straddler – One foot in traditional religion, one foot in free-form spirituality
60 – 69
Old-fashioned Seeker — Happy with my religion but searching for the right expression of it
70 – 79
Questioning Believer – You have doubts about the particulars but not the Big Stuff
80 – 89
Confident Believer – You have little doubt you’ve found the right path
90 – 100
Candidate for Clergy

I scored 41; right on the border of “spiritual dabbler” and “spiritual seeker”, though I was barely in the latter.

What I find odd is that many people consider atheists and agnostics as people who “are mad at god” or something. In fact, mine comes from “I just don’t believe that; THIS, in my opinion, is more likely”.

The following describes what I feel almost to a “T”:

And no, I am not wrong about the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

flying spaghetti monster

But, still Dawkins seems to make a huge point: it seems that many of the Christians that I have ran into (NOT those that I have as “conversant friends”) seem to have a false dichotomy approach: “either you believe in my god, or you are an atheist”; they haven’t a clue that only a tiny fraction of human beings that have ever lived believe as they do; in fact, would even consider believing as they do. They seem to have some sort of attitude: “there are things that no one can explain, therefore my god must exist”. And if somone has been exposed to their beliefs and has rejected them, they must be doing so out of rebellion, evil purpose, hurt or something. The idea “hey, it is cool if it works for you, but to me it appears to be well intentioned supersition” appears to incomprehensible to them, or at least as incomprehensible to them as my current mathematics interests are to me. 🙂

So I had better get back to work!


February 6, 2007 Posted by | mathematics, politics/social | 1 Comment

Many topics, new and old…

Workout notes: yesterday: 3100 yards of swimming in the morning; many mixing of drills and strokes. Then power yoga with Suzanne last night.

This morning: 2100 yards of swimming; this included 10 x 100 on the 1:45. I managed to hit all of the reps in 1:36-1:38 (mostly 1:37) but the last three reps were challenging. I noticed that a lady who had my favorite lane actually moved over to share a lane with someone else when I came in; perhaps she was afraid that I’d try to share it with her? Or was she being ultra polite? I’ll never know.

Yoga Notes The power yoga class with Suzanne is still sparsely attended (though her class 1 hour earlier is well attended). We still had fun, doing some hand balances (Kakasana, Bakasana). We also did these in Vickie’s morning class.

This yogi is doing Kakasana (crow) (note the knees outside of the arms and that the arms are bent)
kakasana rock

This yogi (from Brazil) is also doing Kakasana:
kakasana brazil
Notice that her arms are still bent but that the knees are resting on the back of the arms rather than being on the outside of the arms and that her butt is a bit higher up.

This yogi is doing Bakasana (crane)
yeseric crane
Notice how her knees are on the back of her arms (rather than outside) and all of her body is lifted very high up. I tried to link to her (yeseric) photobucket album, but somehow it requires a password. Still it is a great photo.

Also, one of the poses we do is tree, as Mishoga is demonstrating:

mish tree

I can hold this easier on my right leg (the dominant one); perhaps my left piriformis is also an issue here.

Math notes: I’ll spend the rest of today trying to relearn the Alexander Polynomial as it relates to groups which abelianize to free abelian groups and to knots. I’d like to show that all knots in a certain class of knots are distinct (knots which can be built up as sums of identical three string tangles, each string being unknotted).

Social notes This past Friday I attended a party which celebrated Jane Ising’s 105’th birthday.

Jane Ising Dr. Ising’s life is a long, rich one. She got her Ph. D. from the University of Berlin in economics in the 1930’s. She married a Jew and lived in pre-Nazi and then Nazi Germany. She survived the infamous Kristallnacht and World War II while in Luxembourg. She and her husband moved to the United States and then to Peoria in the late 1940’s, and she taught classes at Bradley University and founded the Planned Parenthood chapter in Peoria.

Her husband, Ernst Ising, discovered the famous Ising model which is still widely studied and used today. I’ve swam laps with both of them; Jane used to complain that I splashed too much. Unfortunately, she had to stop swimming on her own in her late 90’s and stop walking on her own right after reaching 100. Ernst Ising died in his mid 90’s.

Blog Note:

I got a hit from the Issue Barometer website; in particular from their Crisis Alert program. I am not sure as to what those folks were looking for; I have had people from Senator Feingold’s office visit this site (or at least the earlier blogspot version). The latter sure wasn’t unwelcome as I am a big fan of Senator Feingold.

Football Ok, my Bears got soundly whipped 29-17, and very badly outplayed from the scrimmage line.

bears colts

Manning won the MVP, but I would have given it to the Colt offensive line. They opened big holes all day long and enabled the Colts to run for almost 200 yards, which set up the Colt short passing game.

Still, “da Bears” were only down 22-17 in the 4’th quarter when the Colts ran back an interception for a touchdown. I really thought that the Bears were going to find a way to “steal” the game, as they had almost all season long.

Rex Grossman caught flack, but he did complete 20 of 28 passes even though he frequently had to run for his life. No, he isn’t all star material at this stage of his career, but on this night, the Bears simply lost to a better team. Grossman doesn’t play defense.

Speaking of football, I admit that I wanted to play it; my dream was to be an NFL player. My lack of strength, speed, quickness, aglility and overall athletic ability got in the way. 🙂

Nevertheless, perhaps it was a good thing that I didn’t achieve my dream?

The snow had just begun to flutter over Soldier Field when Wilber Marshall scooped up a fumble—forced by Richard Dent’s sack—and galloped toward the end zone for the exclamation mark on a 24-0 Bears triumph over the Los Angeles Rams in the 1985 NFC championship game.

It is a scene frozen in the minds and hearts of many Bears fans, a picture of a gifted team in its prime, the portrait of an exceptionally conditioned athlete in all his glory.

Marshall, then a 23-year-old, 6-foot-1-inch, 228-pound linebacker, may not have been the most valuable Bears player that Super Bowl season, but he was a striking physical specimen of unquestioned ability. To say time has been unkind to that body is telling only part of the story, but it is the logical start.

Ask Marshall how old he feels today and the 44-year-old does not hesitate.

“A hundred,” he says.

Retired in 1995 after playing on two Super Bowl winners and playing 12 NFL seasons with the Bears, Washington Redskins, Houston Oilers, Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, Marshall lives in Virginia, on permanent disability from the NFL.

He has had both knees and a shoulder replaced, has a degenerative disc in his neck, nerve impairments in both arms and chronic pain from ankles broken four times. He will need knee-replacement surgery again someday as well as surgery on both hips and shoulders. And that’s just for starters.

“Besides that,” Marshall says quietly, “is the stress that goes along with it because there’s nothing you can do and the NFL doesn’t take care of its players.”

Marshall is like many of his contemporaries waging battles with the NFL and the players union over disability benefits. He was a highly paid player of his generation, leaving the Bears after the ’87 season for a five-year, $6 million offer to play for Washington. (The Bears declined to match it but received the Redskins’ first-round draft picks in 1988 and ’89 as compensation.) Now Marshall says the biggest luxury money affords him is the ability to pay for legal expenses.

Marshall, an intensely private man who declined to be photographed for this story, is very careful about what he puts in his body, he says. The pain is “bad” but would be worse if not for “a medicine case any druggie would love.” He walks with a limp and weighs 270 pounds, in large part, he says, because his injuries make it hard to work out.

“If I even tried, they’d say you’re trying to do this exercise, so you’re not disabled,” he says. […]

It kind of makes me guilty that I like watching it. Nevertheless, playing in the NFL was my dream.

Social I always thought that men were complete idiots when it came to the love game; how many times did a man in a high position risk all for either love or sex? Women are smarter than that, right? Maybe not:

The female astronaut was arrested Monday and charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the international space station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery.

She was denied bail.

Police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston to the Orlando International Airport to confront Colleen Shipman.

Nowak thought Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery’s trip to the space station in December, police said.

Nowak told police that her relationship with Oefelein was “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Police officers recovered a love letter to Oefelein in her car.

NASA spokesman James Hartsfield in Houston said that, as of Monday, Nowak’s status with the astronaut corps remained unchanged.

“What will happen beyond that, I will not speculate,” he said.

Hartsfield said he couldn’t recall the last time an astronaut was arrested and said there were no rules against fraternizing among astronauts.

When she found out that Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit.

Nowak raced from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers so she wouldn’t have to stop to urinate, authorities said.

Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Oh boy; I suppose that astronauts are, uh, dependable,…..but this is absurd.

bush global warming

Interestingly enough, some at the Journal Star are crying “foul” over how the national media reported “The Decider’s ” recent Peoria visit.

Along with President Bush, the White House press corps came to town, filling notebooks with all sorts of impressions, ready to give the world a taste of Peoria.

Luckily, we got a glimpse inside those notebooks.

Granted, reporters aren’t supposed to be part of the story, but when several dozen media types wielding cameras and questions swarm into town like yellow jackets on a rotten apple, it’s hard not to notice their presence.

[…] There was notable gasping – and some laughter – when his limousine made a turn into the parking lot of the Sterling Family Restaurant.


The descriptions didn’t surprise me, as I had earlier watched him and two other reporters surround a guy at the counter.

He told them Bush’s arrival was a “big surprise.” (That’s about all they could get him to say).

“But throughout, he sat at the counter, drinking coffee and smoking one cigarette after another,” the reporter noted.

The man was described as wearing a “camouflage baseball cap, with the logo of ‘Midwest Equipment.’ ”

The reporters continued to press him as if he were a town expert, asking the 71-year-old union retiree – a Sterling regular – about the effects of outsourcing on Caterpillar’s success and the impact of free trade on the local economy.

The L.A. Times reporter also noted the prices on the hand-written hanging menu, just in case we didn’t already seem hick-ish enough.

He wrote: “The restaurant offers blintzes for $4.25, the Number One special is 1 pancake, 1 egg, bacon or sausage for $3.95, and baklava for $2.25. The Valentine’s Day special is $24 for two (7 oz. ribeye, shrimp, strawberry shortcake, dinner rolls, soup or salad.”

Sheesh. Even I scribbled in my notebook that one could order fried mush for $4.45.

Impressions from the diner

Here’s another funny thing about impressions: People can walk away with totally different views of the same scene.

Newsweek political reporter Holly Bailey described Bush’s greeting at the restaurant as a “sedate reception.”

“Last summer, a woman nearly fainted when Bush made an unscheduled visit for some doughnut holes at the legendary Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in Chicago. In Peoria this week, many people found their pancakes more interesting,” she wrote, adding, “The quiet was deafening.”

The description was the introduction to a column about how Bush is struggling for attention more than past lame-duck presidents.

“No one rushed to shake his hand. There were no audible gasps or yelps of excitement that usually accompany visits like this.”

Ms. Bailey and I disagree on the meaning of the silence in this case.

When Bush walked into the small restaurant, so did two dozen or so pushy reporters. It was quiet as Bush made his rounds, shaking hands. But people looked more awe-struck and confused than bored. They were just there for some fried mush, after all, not expecting to meet the president.

After the Bush entourage left, Journal Star reporters went in to ask diners and workers their thoughts. One guy said he was so nervous he couldn’t even remember if he shook the president’s hand. The next day, a waitress reported that people were “taking turns sitting in the chair” where the president ate his breakfast. Hardly seems ho-hum. I couldn’t help but wonder also if Ms. Bailey missed the hundreds of people lining the streets just to catch a glimpse of the motorcade rolling by, in weather cold enough to make you forget your toes. (M.P)

I wasn’t there. My feelings are these: no, Peoria wasn’t as excited about the President’s visit as the Journal Star was. But I’ve be very surprised if the locals were frosty or hostile toward him. The truth is probably simply too mundane to make good copy, either in the Journal Star or in the national media.

On a related note, blogger Nite Swimming has a very funny post about something Molly Ivins said. Please read it if you want a laugh; it is short and to the point.

Things that make you go “hmmm”.
I love checking in at the Dependable Renegade. After doing so yesterday, I just had to ask the question: seperated at birth?
laura bush

the joker

February 6, 2007 Posted by | football, Friends, injury, mathematics, Peoria/local, politics/social, swimming, time trial/ race, yoga | 9 Comments