Saturday, December 27, 2014

At last I believe in the Theorem of Pythagoras

Pythagoras was right! Here’s the definitive, rigorous mathematical proof:

See boring proofs at Wikipedia (or elsewhere).

View a collection of other interesting dynamic GIFs here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

All I want for Christmas is a laminal voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative

I’ve always been interested in spoken languages, as a dabbler and non-specialist, since learning some Latin and French at high school and picking ups some basics of various European and Asian tongues while travelling around in my days at IBM.

Today, for no particular reason and while dabbling, I came across this Wikipedia article about the “thorn” letter which takes on the “th” sound in words such as “this” and “thing.”

File:Latin alphabet Þþ.svg

I was struck by the following statement in the second paragraph:

However, in modern Icelandic it's pronounced as a
laminal voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative

So there! Perhaps something to mull over and help one to doze off after a hefty Christmas meal … or perhaps not.

Anyway, may I take the opportunity to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Possibly getting eaten by a shark, versus winning the Lotto?

I keep telling members of my family that buying Lotto tickets is a “mug’s game” and that they would better spend their hard-earned money on something else.

They even think that buying a Lotto ticket each week increases their chance of a win. I’ve given up on trying to persuade them, it’s like talking to the proverbial brick wall.

Earlier today I was reading Response to the latest shark bite is fuelled by myth and retribution and reading the various interesting opinions of commenters.

One of them pointed to a web document that turns out to be a real gem, and I encourage you all to read right through its six pages:

Shark attacks and the Poisson approximation by Byron Schmuland


As well as gaining valuable insights about your chances of being gobbled by a “Noah’s Ark” you will also learn about the theory of coincidences: winning the Lotto, having the same birthday as someone else in a group, and the true nature of Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretsky’s amazing batting average.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What you think is right may actually be wrong – Inferring versus rationalising

Over at The Conversation there’s a thought-provoking new article (16 January 2014) about the process of thinking:

What you think is right may actually be wrong – here’s why

We like to think that we reach conclusions by reviewing facts, weighing evidence and analysing arguments. But this is not how humans usually operate, particularly when decisions are important or need to be made quickly.

The matters broached in this article are very relevant to this blog about Basic Questions, wouldn’t you agree?