November 2004


Perfect Fifth

To Shorten Winter’s Sadness

Perfect Fifth, a ten-voice ensemble from the University of California, Berkeley, will present a concert of early music featuring sacred pieces by Isaac, Senfl, Victoria, and Guerrero, madrigals by Weelkes, Othmayr, and de Monte, and old carols from the 14th-16th centuries. The concert will be held in the beautiful acoustic of the Hearst Memorial Mining Building Lobby.

Hearst Memorial Mining Building Lobby
Saturday, December 4
7 PM
$5 for UCB Students / $8 general

Tickets will be available 1 hour before the concert at the door or can be purchased via phone at (510) 642-3880 or on the web

For more information, including a map, please see our website.

This article was a little bit depressing. Then I saw these these stickers, which were somewhat amusing. They are in reference to the case in Cobb County, Georgia, where evolution disclaimers are being put on high school biology books.

[Found this via The Panda's Thumb]

In case any occasional perusers of this blog care, I just spent a lot of money on airplane tickets. From December 20-31 I will be in Champaign, IL, and from January 5-17 I will be in Boston, although the tail end of that will be Mystery Hunt, natch.

Cool. I always wanted to know how to read someone the Riot Act:

Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons being assembled immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George for preventing tumultuous and riotous assemblies. God save the King.

Via The Volokh Conspiracy

I have to try this wine. It has a monkey on it. With a fez!

It’s interesting to me that the Illiad is really about a few different gods having a fight and then using humans as their pawns. The Trojan War is a relgious war in that sense, but it’s not a religious war in the sense that the Greeks worship the true gods and the Trojans false ones. I wonder if this dynamic of “my deities are stronger than your deities” was a common one in non Judeo-Christian-Muslim cultures. The religions of the book share, in the construction of their monotheism, a fundamental rejection of the validity of other faiths. The idols of others are false idols to false Gods, not weaker ones. In this sense they are fundamentally intolerant religions, at least if you accept the basic axioms.

Lest I get flamed, I want to point out that I’m not claiming that Jews/Christians/Muslims are fundamentally intolerant, nor that they are the only people with intolerant views. It’s just that the rhetoric in this country of Dobson-esque figures makes the GOP out to be Gods Own Party and others as not only wrong, but evil to boot.

Every few days I have to clear out about 50 spam comments from this blog. It’s usually not a problem, thanks to MT-Blacklist. But an odd thing I noticed is that spammers attack the same few posts over and over again. My only theory is that they have higher Google rankings or something than other entries. Anyone else notice similar behavior?

Is going on at Obsidian Wings, and it’s worth a read.

This can’t be good (link via Atrios):

FALLUJA, Iraq (CNN) — The U.S. military is investigating whether a Marine shot dead an unarmed, wounded insurgent during the battle for Falluja in an incident captured on videotape by a pool reporter.

The man was shot in the head at close range Saturday by a Marine who found him among a group of wounded men. The wounded men were found in a mosque that Marines said had been the source of small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire the previous day.

Four of the men appeared to have been shot again in Saturday’s fighting, and one of them appeared to be dead, according to the pool report. In the video, a Marine was seen noticing that one of the men appeared to be breathing.

A Marine approached one of the men in the mosque saying, “He’s [expletive] faking he’s dead. He’s faking he’s [expletive] dead.”

The Marine raised his rifle and fired into the apparently wounded man’s head, at which point a companion said, “Well, he’s dead now.”

I’m sure the videogame industry will be blamed for this one any minute now. Shift the blame, shift the blame, until it spreads into a thin enough patina so that we don’t notice those bright lines between right and wrong go all fuzzy and out of focus.

Naturally, this is not a statistical sample. This is not a poll. And because of that, the spin will be, as it was for Abu Ghraib, that this data point has no statistical value. But a single point changes your posterior distribution a lot if your prior gave probability one to the event “no torture, no atrocities.”

This news has put me off my homework for the night.

In my research I often find myself poking around in unfamiliar areas of mathematics. It was a delight and a pleasure to come across one of Hilbert’s famous problems today — the tenth one, concerning Diophantine equations:

Given a Diophantine equation with any number of unknown quantities and with rational integral numerical coefficients: to devise a process according to which it can be determined by a finite number of operations whether the equation is solvable in rational integers.

For those who do not know, a Diophantine equation is one in which only integer solutions are allowed. For example, consider the equation

3 x + 14 y – 8 z = 9.

Normally the set of triples (x, y, z) that satisfy this equation are unlimited; this equation defines a plane in 3-dimensional space and any point on that plane is a valid solution. But the Diophantine restriction makes things trickier, and now we want solutions for which (x, y, z) are integers. If you stare at this example long enough, you can see that x = 1, y = 1, z = 1 is a solution to this system.

I have a slightly more complicated system to solve, so I had to dig a bit deeper than the definitions. Hilbert’s problem asks if there exists an algorithm to solve Diophantine equations — the answer is no, and was proved by Matiyasevich in 1970 in what was apparently an elegant little paper. Today I was reading a 1973 review by Martin Davis, in which section 2 is called “Twenty-four easy lemmas.” Reading these lemmas reminded me why number theory is so confusing; indeed, one needs a 24-step program to get through to the end result.

For what I hear is a nice review of Hilbert’s 10th, see Matiyasevich’s book on the subject.

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