a mountain climber’s axe

“… a mountain climber’s axe! Can’t you get that through your skull?” — Trotsky’s Wife in David Ives’ Variations on the Death of Trotsky

I’m a blogging machine this morning.

there went my productivity for the day

The Planarity Flash Game, where you have to drag around the vertices of increasingly larger and larger graphs to prove that they are planar. (via Eszter over at Crooked Timber)

It of course got me thinking about the fastest algorithm to planarize a graph that you know is planar. You’d have to define all the quantities you have pre-computed (the smart thing seems to be to find a vertex with minimal degree and work up from there), but it could be an interesting problem. It’s probably been solved already or exists as an exercise in CLR.

stopping imperialism, stopping attacks

Via Kevin Drum, an excerpt from an interview with Robert Pape of UChicago that is perhaps apropos to my earlier post. Pape’s claims are that

  1. “… overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.”
  2. “In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community.”
  3. “Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop — and often on a dime.”

The overall argument is that once the physical fact of empire dissolves, support for suicide attacks dissapates. And indeed, the most effective rhetoric by Al-Qaeda and others is focussed on this issue. I’m somewhat dubious that the effect of cultural imperialism can be so easily swept under the rug. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to live and let live if you don’t have foreign soldiers down the street from you.

It’s almost too easy

(via Atrios. According to the Boston Globe, Rick Santorum (R-PA) wrote about the Catholic child-abuse scandal:

When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

An aide later clarified:

”It’s an open secret that you have Harvard University and MIT that tend to tilt to the left in terms of academic biases,” said Robert Traynham, the Santorum aide. ”I think that’s what the senator was speaking to.”

Well, naturally! Putting aside the misuse of “open secret,” the presence of a high density of leftist particle physicists in a space the size of Cambridge results in moral corruption and paedophilia. We should name this principle after its location and discoverer — the Boston-Santorum effect.

I leave it to the more physics-savvy to come up with the mathematical formulation.